Amazon announced Go, their futuristic retail experience back in December 2016. While it has taken longer than first expected, the very first store is now open, located at 2131, 7th Avenue, Seattle and is open 7AM—9PM, Monday through Friday. To get into the store, you’ll need an Amazon account and a phone. To enter the store without registers (or related staff), you need to walk through the turnstyle-type entry gates, allowing the machine to scan your unique QR code from the Amazon Go app.
While the display of your phone is being scanned, so is your face and thanks to the wonders of computer vision, your movements around the shop are also tracked, as are the products that you remove from the shelves. Much like grabbing that drink from the minibar at 3am can automatically sense you took something, the shelves of Amazon Go stores also track your purchases.
The experience of shopping here is like no other, with no regular checkouts staffed by employees, or even self-scanning bays, because there’s simply no need for them. The store knows who you are from the QR code scanned at entry and from that point forward, the items you remove from shelves are added to your virtual cart. At the point you leave the store, the digital cart is then charged to your Amazon payment method (typically credit card) and you simply walk out of the store.
Like an Uber for supermarkets, the experience eliminates payment during the interaction and you’ll receive a digital receipt a few steps down the pavement outside the store.
In terms of range, its important to remember this isn’t Wallmart, yet. The range of products is limited to ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinners or snack options made by dedicated Amazon chefs and favorite local kitchens and bakeries. There’s a selection of grocery essentials which include staples like bread and milk to cheeses and locally made chocolates. Amazon also offers convenient Meal Kits, including all the ingredients to make a meal for 2 in about 30 minutes.
The store is certainly a novelty as its something different and many shoppers will visit to simply experience it. If the first store is successful, have no doubt, Amazon will roll these out across America and eventually the world. However this growth will take years, so don’t expect it in Australia anytime soon. In terms of economics, obviously, there’s a perceived saving of staff wages, but remember many staff at supermarkets have already been replaced by self-scanning isles. There’s also the need for staff to restock shelves each day, or potentially multiple times a day. Until Amazon develop robots to unpack delivery trucks and stack store shelves, its a safe bet humans will be employed for a while to come.
The other challenge to Amazon Go is Amazon itself. The company has spent years getting people comfortable with buying everything online and now a retail offering seems a little backward in their business model.