Amazon seems to be the go-to for most everything nowadays. Do you want an eBook? They’ve got that. How about clothes, a barbecue, makeup, camping equipment? Yep, they’ve got that handled too. In fact, there’s not much a person might want that they can’t acquire through the online conglomerate. But cornering the market is not good enough; the corporation continues to try and stay ahead of the competition. It’s newest invention, Amazon Go, is in full speed ahead mode, with cashierless operations opening across the nation.
The Go stores are grocery outlets, meant to provide the consumer with quick snacks, treats, and even meals. The idea is simple: Grab what you want off the shelves and walk out of the store. It’s so simple and easy, it almost seems illegal, as if you’re shoplifting. But don’t worry, your purchases will be added to your account once you’re finished shopping.
As Amazon’s website explains, “All you need is an Amazon account, the free Amazon Go app, and a recent-generation iPhone or Android phone.” Then, simply open the app, enter the store, and put the phone away. Everything else is done for you. Every item you take from the shelf is added to your virtual cart, and don’t stress if you change your mind. When an item is replaced, it is removed from the shopping cart automatically.
Easy, right? The same technologies used for self-driving cars were used in the creation of the “Just Walk Out Shopping” experience. The grocery industry is a $900 billion business, and the e-commerce giant wants its share of the goodies. Even though Amazon already operates the Whole Foods Market chain, this newest expansion won’t just serve to make their customers’ lives simpler; the company also plans to sell the technology to other retailers.
At this stage, the cashierless stores are small, more like convenience shops. However, it is just one phase of the larger plan to build full-size grocery stores without cashiers. That doesn’t mean there won’t be staff on sight, though. There will be employees working in the kitchen, stocking shelves, preparing ingredients, and on hand to assist customers.
The first Go store was initiated about two years ago in Seattle, WA. Now there are 21 locations around the nation in operation. Analyst wonder if the cost of technology used will outweigh any profits earned. According to MSN Money:
“…some of the 1,000 or so people working on it [Go project] were recently told their cumulative salaries have totaled more than $1 billion since the project got underway in 2012.”
The Go stores are also referred to as Pop Up stores because of their small size with locations around 2,000 square feet. The online company plans to open kiosk-type shops that can be placed in malls and other high foot traffic areas. The original plan of 30,000-square-foot cashierless shopping centers is getting closer to reality as Amazon has been able to downsize the space and hardware needed for the new technology.
A few questions still remain about this project, though. How reliable is this technology? Will customers end up being charged for products they did not “grab”? There’s also the concern many have about running business with technology instead of humans. What will this do for the economy and employment?
So far, at least from the Seattle example, the Go experience is a success. Society is populated by people all about convenience and saving time – whether that’s getting fast food meals, shopping online, or having purchases delivered to their homes. The consumer will surely quickly adapt to this newest expediency and embrace it as they add another activity to their schedule now that they don’t have to wait in line to pick up a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.