Many companies today are using the power of technology to create competitive advantages for their businesses. Now more than ever, industries are attempting to meet the needs of their customers through supplying affordable products at a fast-pace. Amazon is one of the world’s leading electronic commerce and cloud computing companies. The use of the Internet allows for customers to purchase varying types of products from companies from all over the world in a quick and easy manner.
Amazon continues serving customers on a timely and convenient manner by extending their brand: Amazon Go. On Monday, January 22, the company debuted their cashier-less convenience store to the public. This store is only located near the Amazon spheres in Seattle and is open from 7am – 9pm, Monday through Friday.
Before Amazon had opened their new store to the public, Amazon Go was only open to the company’s employees for nearly 14 months. The features and benefits of this convenience store align with the target market: office workers who are pressed for time and want to quickly grab food on the go when they are hungry. The company’s goal is to eliminate the time customers wait in line to purchase a simple item, such as a sandwich or a bottle of coconut water.
Amazon Go wanted to innovate the brick-and-mortar shopping experience by intertwining the combination of shopping at a physical location, while using the internet to actually pay for the products. The store is only 1,800-square-feet. Similar to most convenience stores, Amazon Go offers a beer and wine section, a variety of pre-made sandwiches, salads, and other typical breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options. Amazon also offers customers the opportunity to purchase “chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits” that contain all the ingredients needed to make a home-cooked meal for two in thirty minutes. Unfortunately, there is no hot food selection.
Amazon has coined this new way of shopping as “Just Walk Out” shopping. Customers must have the Amazon Go app and an account to be able to shop in the store. As soon as they walk-in, they are required to scan their phones. They are then able to help themselves while grabbing the product that they want, putting it in their bag, and then walking out without having to physically check out. The customer will then receive a receipt on their Amazon Go app of the items they purchased and then be charged on their account. If there is an item that they did not put in their bag, they have the ability to remove the item on their phone and not worry about being incorrectly billed. Amazon is following the honor system because they are just that confident in their technology. The company believes that they would be able to pinpoint sketchy behavior because of the data collection of customer’s shopping patterns.
You may be wondering how exactly the technology behind this process works. Similar to technologies used in self-driving cars, Amazon Go uses “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning” to automatically detect the actions of the customer. Whenever a product is taken from or returned to the shelves, the “Just Walk Out” technology will keep track of each product in a virtual cart.
Although the store is cashier-less, there are still Amazon employees at the actual store that help with food preparation, assisting with any questions customers may have, and checking for valid ID for alcoholic purchases.
With cashiers being the second-most-common job in the United States, many people fear that this technology could potentially reduce the number of cashiers needed.  However, Amazon stated that their goal is not to scale down the number of retail employees, but instead to expedite the convenience store experience in not having to wait in long lines.
On the day of the store opening, there was already a large crowd trying to get in and shop. Only a specific number of customers are allowed to enter the store at once; thus, the long line almost defeated the purpose of a quick and easy trip to the local store. Following the debut, almost a week after, customers are still having to wait outside before entering.
The concept of being able to walk into a store, purchase whichever product you desire, and then walk out changes the experience of shopping. Many people, especially office workers and college students who are crunched for time, would greatly benefit from Amazon Go. As a college student, it would be very useful purchasing a small snack on the go and not bother taking out my wallet and having to wait in a long line to purchase the item. One drawback is that I may purchase more items than necessary because of how I do not have the time while waiting in the check-out-line to reflect on whether I actually do need an item.
The company has not stated whether they will expand Amazon Go outside of Seattle. Thus, it will be interesting to see what will lie ahead for your average brick-and-mortar store and if other companies will follow Amazon’s lead in using technology for their shopping experiences. For right now, however, if you are ever in the Seattle area and you want to satisfy your hunger, you should definitely stop at Amazon Go.