- More than a year after launching the pilot, Amazon has opened its highly anticipated Amazon Go store in Seattle to the public, open 7 a.m. — 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. The 1,800 square foot store is "conveniently compact," according to the company.
- Shoppers there need an Amazon account, the free Amazon Go app and a recent-generation iPhone or Android smartphone. Once the app is open and the shopper is scanned, the phone can be put away. Customers simply walk out with products, which have been automatically deposited to their Amazon baskets and paid for with the form of payment registered to their account.
- While the store reportedly suffered bugs over the past year, including how to deal with multiple shoppers (including kids) on one account, they have apparently been smoothed out, according to IHL Group Vice President of Technology Jerry Sheldon, who shared his own visit there in recent weeks with Retail Dive. "It’s absolutely fascinating — it really operated smoothly," he said in an interview. "There were no glitches. The system functioned flawlessly, with no limitations placed upon any items I selected."
Amazon Go remains relegated to one Seattle store, but the e-commerce giant can now see how ordinary consumers (and not just Amazon employees) use the technology. While many have speculated about how easy shoplifting would be to be at a retailer where customers can just walk out with the goods, it's not actually so easy, Sheldon said, noting that there were hundreds of cameras as well as many Amazon Go employees in the store, who help at the entrance and elsewhere, and work to restock shelves.
Still, he said, the approach does seem to be predicated on a level of trust on Amazon's part. "They first start out by trusting you, but they're using analytics," he said. "They'll know if you become problematic over time." On Sheldon's tour, participants were invited to try to trick the system. While he didn't, a New York Times reporter at another tour who did was charged for an item that he tried to sneak out.
More importantly, the technology, as with so many Amazon initiatives, is poised to elevate customer expectations of the checkout experience by design. At the moment, the cash-free store from Starbucks or even Walmart's more advanced "Scan & Go" systems don't approach that, according to Sheldon. "The big takeaway from a technology perspective, whether you're a vendor or a competing retailer or a consumer — is that they really have a desire to raise the consumer expectation about what the experience should be. I've been to their bookstore, and it's fairly traditional. At Amazon Go they’re really trying to raise the bar on what the shopping experience can be."
The tech solves a the near-universal problem of standing in line at the checkout, so universal that walking out without that step is "kind of an odd feeling," Sheldon said. "It’s strangely liberating."
That's pretty powerful. The technology, a complex system that functions transparently and simply, is now ready for prime time, Sheldon said. And although he isn't privy to Walmart's advances with its own checkout-free tech, that retailer may still have a ways to go. "Amazon Go is not a beta," he said. "This is functioning technology that is potentially production ready. Not all cashier-less checkout is created equally."
Amazon didn't share its expansion plans for Amazon Go and said it has no plans to implement the technology at Whole Foods grocery stores. Amazon didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for more information, although the company is advertising a position for an Amazon Go real estate manager.