Skip, the mobile checkout app provider that equips small and independent convenience store chains with Amazon Go-like frictionless payment capabilities, said it plans to have its offering available for use in 3,000 locations next year in a bid to beat Amazon to the same goal, according to a Skip press release.
The company stated that it is now rolling out into several new chains, including Oklahoma-based Jiffy Trip and New England’s Rapid Refill, and has signed contracts with other convenience store operators that will allow it to quickly ramp up to 3,000 stores total.
Late last month, Bloomberg reported that Amazon was considering a massive, aggressive expansion of its Amazon Go model that would involve the build-out of 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021, Amazon declined comment for that report, and has made no announcements about broader expansion plans.
The frictionless/cashierless checkout sector may still be in its infancy, but competition is starting to heat up.
One obvious wrinkle in this ambitious challenge is that Amazon has said nothing about actually having its own plan to open 3,000 Amazon Go location by 2021 or any other date. Bloomberg, which broke the news, relied on unnamed sources who said the e-commerce giant was only considering such an expansion. For now, all we really know about Amazon Go’s expansion is that Amazon has quickly opened second, third and fourth stores within the last six weeks, and has confirmed at least two more cities for future openings.
One other difference is that Amazon Go is not the same kind of conventional convenience store model operated by the companies that Skip is doing business with, and Amazon isn't selling its own technology to other stores, as Skip is doing. As it continues to expand, Amazon Go seems to have a heavy focus on ready-made meals for urban commuters with locations planted in the path commuters take to and from public transportation.
Many Skip customers such as Ricker’s, Jiffy Trip and Rapid Refill are regional chains, and often affiliated with service stations, thus suggesting locations on or near more suburban or rural highways. These convenience stores are the type where a hungry road-tripper is more likely to stop and grab a bag of chips, soda, some beef jerky instead of a balanced, freshly-prepared dinner to warm up at home. Amazon Go and these stores probably have inventory overlap, but much else about their missions seems different.
Both of these target markets present great opportunities for frictionless checkout technology to make customer visits more enjoyable and efficient, but they aren't direct competitors. Even if Amazon Go does pursue a plan to open 3,000 locations, most may end up in major metropolitan areas.
There is growing concern how Amazon Go could affect jobs and small corner stores. And, it’s possible big chains like 7-Eleven and Pret-A-Manger could suffer unless they change their own approaches. The likes of Jiffy Trip should have much less to worry about for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t continue to evolve and adapt to the mobile checkout era. Skip is helping them do that, and is having some competitive fun with the notion of a David-vs.-Goliath scenario playing out.