No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously)
How often do you find yourself waiting impatiently in line at the supermarket? Sizing up which queue is the shortest, which is the fastest, which one has someone cashing in their year’s collection of 50p off vouchers. It can be a frustrating experience. 59% of UK shoppers actually abandon their purchases because of the inconvenience of waiting in line; even with the assistance of self-checkout, we still get fired up by those ‘unexpected items in the bagging area’. But never fear, Amazon Go is here to help, with the world’s first no cash, no check-outs, no queues, grab-and-go shopping experience.
Amazon Go is like your favourite supermarket but without the hassle. The store runs on the world’s most advanced ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping technology: computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. The store automatically detects when products are picked up and put back on the shelves; and through image, weight analysis and pressure sensors, it knows when shelves are full or need restocking, so only 6 humans are needed to work there. Computers and sensors monitor shoppers’ movements, tracking the products they interact with and storing this information in a virtual cart. When a shopper exits the store, the system calculates the items they’ve picked up and charges it to their Amazon account. No cash is needed or kept on the premises. Simple.
With this advanced tracking info, Amazon Go will have the most accurate and detailed customer purchasing information yet. This new data could bring significant insight and improvement to the customer shopping journey and our purchasing habits. Amazon will know how long you linger by the cake section and how quickly you pick up a bottle of wine. They’ll be able to see if you like creamy pasta with garlic bread or salad and what day of the week you like to eat it.
A recent twist to the story is Amazon’s reported $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods (‘America’s Healthiest Grocery Store’), with experts suggesting the “big prize” is not the acquisition of Whole Foods itself but their “offline data”. Amazon will now have all the data they need on physical shopping, to complement the online shopping data they already have. There’s a large overlap between Amazon Prime members and Whole Food shoppers (62% of Whole Foods shoppers also use Amazon Prime), so the data will definitely be relevant.
Up to this point, Amazon were going nowhere.
Now the game is changing with the acquisition
of Whole Foods.
Everseen, an Ireland-based company who are
developing technology similar to Amazon Go’s
It will be interesting to see how Amazon integrate some of their other new technologies into the Go stores. E.g. Amazon Prime Air, a delivery system designed to get packages to customers in 30 mins or less using unmanned aerial vehicles aka drones. It would certainly make the journey home a lot easier.
Amazon are also exploring technology to produce ready meals that do not need refrigeration. The pioneering technology, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilisation (or MATS), involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurised water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes. Sounds appetising, right? If the technology is successful, it will help the company build on their AmazonFresh food delivery service and will complement the acquisition of Whole Foods nicely.
However, it’s not all plain sailing. So far, Amazon Go have only opened one store (in Seattle) and 6 months in, the pilot store is still in beta testing and open to employees only, with technical problems providing barriers to branching out. Earlier this year, the technology struggled with customer capacity, only able to track 20 people at one time before the system crashed. It’s also said that Amazon Go is not accumulating enough data from their one store location to be able to tackle potential thefts and issues that may occur at further stores.
Others debate that although checkout lines can be a pain, Amazon Go are removing an integral part of the shopping experience: when customers assess, and sometimes reconsider, their purchases in the queue, having the time to think twice before handing over their money.
Techinical issues aside, the potential for Amazon Go is huge. Globally 56% of people already shop at Amazon.com, with Japan, Italy, UK, US and Germany reaching above 90%; so the question remains… have Amazon tapped into the future of shopping? It’s hard to think otherwise, and, before long, there could be an Amazon Go at the end of every street. But until that day comes, we’ll have to wait patiently in the queue.