Fact or fiction? Amazon GO claims to be a new breed of store: no checkout, no queues, no staff. Just products and a host of technologies designed to optimise the customer experience and retail space. It’s true: the first Amazon GO store has already opened in Seattle on a trial run.
For the moment the 170 m² store is only open to Amazon employees: it won’t be open to the general public until “early 2017”, as Amazon has rather vaguely stated. If the experiment proves successful, the tech giant plans to expand the concept in the US with 2,000 stores over the next decade, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The concept: a till-free store
So is this new vision of the grocery store and the consumer experience revolutionary? Not exactly: RFID and NFC technologies are already being used to get rid of the frustrating, time-consuming aspects of shopping. But Amazon takes it one step further: customers at Amazon GO will enjoy a totally automated shopping experience, from selecting products to payment.
Along the lines of ‘take and go,’ Amazon has devised a totally seamless shopping experience: you scan your smartphone when you enter the store, browse the aisles, put the products in your bag and walk right out again. Thus Amazon GO is an attempt to bring the smooth, fast purchasing experience of e-commerce to the brick-and-mortar store – and without the restriction of a payment interface.
Who’s this new breed of concept store aimed at?
Mainly busy city-dwellers who don’t have much time to do a food-shop. About the same size as a local grocery store, it carries a limited range of carefully-selected products and trendy brands designed to attract this demographic.
Amazon GO will also sell takeaway breakfast, lunch, sandwiches freshly-made on the premises, ready meals or ingredient ‘kits’ so you can whip up a meal for two in under 30 minutes. It will also stock larder staples such as soft drinks, bread, milk, cheese and handmade chocolates. Basically, Amazon GO aims to make grocery shopping in cities less of a chore – as its launch video shows.
An ultra-digitalised shopping experience
This is the truly revolutionary part of the store: as the customer takes a product off the shelf, it’s automatically added to their virtual cart via the Amazon GO app on their smartphone.
The list of purchases is updated in real time on the user’s device: if you put something back, it will in turn be deleted from the list.
When you leave the store, the purchases are registered, paid for via contactless payment and the receipt is sent via the app, so you can check it, just as you would with a paper receipt in a regular shop.
How is it all automated? Amazon GO uses similar technologies to the ones used in driverless cars: the stores are full of cameras and sensors which record customers’ movements, detect which products have been taken and analyse the data. Amazon lists the components of what it calls “just walk out technology” in its video: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning algorithms.