After attending the Convenience Distributors Business Exchange (CDBX) in late September, two co-workers and I visited the newest Amazon Go convenience store in Chicago, the city’s first, and the fourth location in the nation. Amazon Go mainly sells grab-and-go products including sandwiches, fruits, drinks, snacks and Amazon Meal Kits.
We were excited to see and try out the high-tech, artificial intelligence-driven shopping experience that has been lauded in trade journals as the future of retailing. The biggest benefit to me as a consumer was the promise that I could escape the entire check-out process! Our group’s experience on this score did not disappoint!
How Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology worked for us
To shop at Amazon Go, a customer must download the Amazon app on a smartphone, and then scan the “key” within the app to enter the store. Upon entering the “transition” area, we were greeted by several Amazon employee helpers ready to assist us with scanning ourselves through the “turnstiles.” There were many cameras and sensors on the ceiling tracking purchases. I also noticed that all the shelves were fully stocked with product, and quite a few employees were busy replacing purchased items. Every item type was clearly marked with a price.
We split up and began our shopping “spree.” Anything and everything I picked up was added to my virtual cart. I picked up and put down many items throughout the store to challenge the technology, which is supposed to remove from the cart any product put back on the shelf. This feature worked correctly for the three of us. My final selection included two products: an Amazon Go mug and Vitamin Water.
After choosing our products, we simply walked out of the store. To be honest, it felt strange for a while afterward. But the promise of the hype was real – there was no waiting in line, no swipe of a credit card and no cash exchange!
Shortly after exiting, my coworker and I both received a notice that our receipts were available. Purchase receipts are viewed within the app under “Receipts” and both matched exactly to what we walked out with. Receipts also list elapsed time while in the store – my total time was 5 minutes, 52 seconds – which was surprising information to receive, since it seemed I was there much longer.
Reflection on our cashierless shopping experience for Distributors
If the Amazon Go-style technology proves sound over time, can maintain its performance accuracy across many more store locations and formats (such as supermarkets like Whole Foods), and is adopted by other major retailers, the pressure on distributors for greater shipment efficiencies and delivery frequency could certainly escalate. Since our visit, Amazon has opened a second store in Chicago and plans to open a third there soon. San Francisco and New York locations are also planned. It has been reported that Amazon may expand to 3000 locations in the next few years.
If you have the opportunity to visit a store in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, or New York, take the time to check it out, no pun intended! Amazon Go “just walk out” technology might just impact the way consumers shop in the future.
by Thomas Baldwin, Product Manager