Are regular supermarkets over? It seems that increasingly, technology and tradition are heading in opposite directions. But before you swap out your shopping bags for e-carts, Amazon is here with a new retail model that could change the game completely—and it’s kind of the best of both worlds. After much anticipation following the 2016 announcement that Amazon would be launching a cashier-less supermarket, the first store finally opened in Seattle on January 22.
Amazon Go is a fully-stocked grocery store that, at first glance, looks and functions like a regular supermarket. The 1,800-square-foot shop has a team of associates working in the kitchen to prep ready-to-eat food, and also on the floor to stock shelves and help customers. The offerings match—and even go beyond—those of a traditional supermarket, consisting of freshly-cooked meals and snacks, items from local kitchens and bakeries, and a wide selection of grocery staples. You can even pick up an Amazon Meal Kit—a new product that was first announced in mid-2017, and rolled out for testing earlier last year.
But the main difference between Amazon Go and a regular supermarket is the payment model. The storefront allows shoppers to pass through and add items to their bags, and then walk out of the store without so much as opening their wallets—a practice colloquially known as “shoplifting,” but one that Amazon is calling “the future.”
“We asked ourselves: What if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they wanted and go?” reads the announcement.
Evidently, the answer is yes—and it’s all thanks to the Amazon Go app. After downloading the app and syncing it with your Amazon account and payment info, all you have to do is use the app to enter the store. Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology (the retailer is nothing if not succinct) lets you browse around and leave without any form of check out: The app automatically detects what products you’re pulling from shelves, and will send you a receipt after you leave the store.
Sound confusing? Amazon’s explanatory video provides a better look at exactly how this new retail model works.
While the Seattle Amazon Go is currently the sole outpost, opportunities for growth are plenty. Should the flagship shop prove to be effective, this could signify a whole new retail model useful to both businesses and consumers—especially as we try to find ways to reconcile traditional brick and mortar storefronts with cutting edge technology.
Plus, this means less standing in line waiting for the person in front of you to sort out his or her coupons… which is always a positive.
This story was originally published in December 2016. It was updated with new information on January 22, 2018.
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