For most shoppers, a trip to the grocery store is a smooth experience until you approach the inevitable bottleneck: the checkout line.
There, you will likely wait behind a wall of shoppers, each unpacking their shopping cart at a seemingly snail-like pace. Then, they rummage through their wallets, deciding on cash, credit or debit. The price scanner jams. The card reader is slow. Paper or plastic?
If Amazon has its way, you may never wait in line again.
On Monday, Amazon unveiled its newest concept, Amazon Go, a grocery and convenience store without checkout lines.
Here is how it works and what you need to know:
1. Grab and Go – Redefined
Amazon wants to redefine the meaning of “grab and go.” Before you shop, you will need to download the Amazon Go app. Next, you will enter the store and shop like you normally do. Any item that you take from a shelf is automatically added to your virtual cart. If you change your mind, you can return the item to the shelf and your virtual cart is automatically updated. When you are finished, you simply leave the store. Yes, leave the store.
No checkout lines. No registers. No self-checkout.
Amazon simply refers to it as “Just Walk Out Technology.” In a way, it feels like ‘shoplifting’ legally because you are not physically paying before you exit the store (although your Amazon account is billed directly for all items removed). Expect to be tracked during your shopping experience through various sensors, cameras and your smart phone. If Amazon can track customers this closely during their shopping experience, perhaps Amazon Go may mark the end of shoplifting altogether.
2. How It Works
What’s the technology behind Amazon Go? Amazon combines machine learning and artificial intelligence to create the Amazon Go experience. According to a promotional video released by Amazon, Amazon Go uses “computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion much like you’d find in self-driving cars.” Practically, the store contains countless cameras and sensors that track what items you place in your physical shopping cart and then link that to your virtual cart, where payment is made.
3. What Can I Buy?
Amazon Go offers an array of ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options prepared fresh daily. You will also find grocery essentials such as bread, milk and cheese.
4. How Can I Visit Amazon Go?
If you live in Seattle and work for Amazon, then you may be in luck. Amazon Go has a single, 1,800 square foot physical location that is in beta testing only for Amazon employees.
5. When Will Amazon Go Open?
Amazon Go is scheduled to open to the public in early 2017.
Amazon is not the first to track shoppers inside a store. Retail technology companies such as RetailNext help over 300 retailers conduct comprehensive in-store analytics to increase sales, reduce costs, measure customer behavior and augment the shopper experience. Beyond a grocery format without checkout lines, in the long run Amazon’s technological competitive advantage in data analytics, customer shopping habits and “one-click” transactions may also help differentiate Amazon Go from traditional grocery retailers.
In addition to improving the customer experience, Amazon is poised to begin collecting customer data unlike any retailer. While many retailers track customer behavior and foot traffic patterns within a store, arguably no retailer has been able to do so with such precision. With Amazon’s technology, Amazon will be able to record when a specific shopper makes contact to a specific item or product, which is considered more revolutionary in retail technology.
While consumers and investors will have many questions in the weeks to come, including on Amazon’s earnings call scheduled for late January 2017, this is not Amazon’s first foray into a brick and mortar or grocery business. Amazon launched a physical bookstore last year in Seattle and subsequently opened locations in San Diego and Portland. Two additional stores are slated to open soon in Chicago and Dedham, Massachusetts. Amazon Fresh is Amazon’s online grocery ordering service.