It seems Amazon is no longer satisfied with being the top e-commerce retailer in the world. Now, the brand is venturing into physical stores – and if its first Amazon Go location is any indication, it could be a game-changer for the retail industry.
What is Amazon Go?
A unique mix of traditional shopping and mobile tech, Amazon Go offers a fresh new take on the convenience store – one where cashiers, registers and debit cards don’t even exist.
How Do Amazon Go Stores Work?
Think of an Amazon Go store like a ramped up version of the convenience store. It’s meant to be a fast, grab-and-go type of shopping experience, one that’s ideal for today’s busy, constantly on the move consumers.
Here’s how it works:
1) Set up the app: Shoppers download the Amazon Go app to their phone, set up an account and upload a payment method.
2) Scan app at the door: As they enter an Amazon Go store, they open the app and scan it at the turnstiles positioned near the doors. (These look a lot like subway turnstiles.)
3) Shop: After entering, they’re free to roam around, picking items off the shelf as they would in a traditional store setting.
4) Place items in “virtual cart”: Built-in tech like cameras, shelf sensors, computer vision, deep learning and other systems monitor what items the shopper chooses, adding them in the background to a virtual cart.
5) Walk out & voila! When the shopper is done, they simply leave the store. They’re automatically charged for their purchases using a stored payment method on the app.
There’s no checkout process or waiting in line in Amazon Go stores. All payments are processed electronically, without debit cards, cash or other forms of payment, and exiting the store is seamless and instant – no queues or awkward cashier chats necessary.
All you need is a smartphone, the Amazon Go app and an Amazon account, and you can start shopping.
What Can You Buy at Amazon Go?
Amazon Go is meant to have convenience store fare, similar to a 7-Eleven or other shop.
It boasts lots of ready-to-eat food, beverages, chips, cookies and snacks, and there are even meal kit boxes courtesy of Amazon. The store also has grocery staples like milk, bread, cheese and cereal – fast-fix items for consumers on the go.
Shoppers can also purchase beer and wine via Amazon Go, though they’ll need to show ID to one of the on-site staff members in order to do so.
What’s the Plan for Amazon Go?
So far, there’s only one Amazon Go store in operation, and that’s in Seattle – Amazon’s hometown. It’s only open Monday through Friday, and it’s just 1,800 square feet, a mere fraction of Walmart’s average 30,000 to 200,000 square footage.
But this small size could work in its favor, making it easier to find locations – particularly in urban areas.
Currently, there are rumors going around that more stores will hit Seattle in the coming months, as well as a location or two in Los Angeles. In total, there are supposedly six more stores in the works for 2018.
“With Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods, I expect they’ll be using these new locations to collect data on retail customer shopping behavior to influence the future development of these “cashier-less” stores, possibly rolling them out in existing Whole Foods locations across the country”, Ryan Burgess, Marketplace Channel Analyst at CPC Strategy said in our predictions post for 2018.
There are also rumors, according to the New York Times, that Amazon is considering selling its tech to other retailers – but that hasn’t yet been verified by Amazon itself.
How Will Amazon Go Impact the Retail Industry?
Though it might be a few years down the road, it’s likely Amazon’s “just walk out” tech will carry on into other brick-and-mortar set-ups, especially as mobile technology gets more advanced.
The tech could also help struggling retailers cut costs in the long run.
Though it does come with serious, up-front set-up costs, the elimination of countless cashiers, registers and card processing fees stands to produce massive savings over time.
And it seems retailers are taking notice of the tech’s potential.
According to Recode, Walmart is working on building a similar grab-and-go solution that would cut out cashiers and other associated checkout costs. It’s been dubbed “Project Kepler” and will use computer vision to provide an Amazon Go-like experience.
While Amazon’s move into the retail space is a serious one, if Walmart follows through on adopting similar tech, that really means change is afoot.
You can bet this tech won’t just be the wave of the future for all retailers – it will be what customers come to expect no matter where they shop.
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