LAS VEGAS — Meal kits, fruit in the morning and fresh items from local bakeries all seem to be doing well for Amazon’s cashier-less Amazon Go store opened earlier this year, but it appears that it’s still very much wait-and-see when it comes to what’s next for the retailer’s high-tech concept.
Amazon Go, which opened in Seattle in January, uses cameras with algorithms and sensors in store shelves to power its grocery store, designed for people who want quick, grab-and-go items, all without having to interface with checkout lines or a cashier.
“One of the holy grails of computer vision is to be able to take an arbitrary scene and be able to interpret it,” said Dilip Kumar, Amazon vice president of technology for Amazon Go and Amazon Books during a talk at the annual Shoptalk conference here. “The scene would be shoppers and figure out who took what.”
The company’s sensors and algorithms work in tandem to be able to read not only what a customer in a crowded store is taking off of what shelf, but also to be able to distinguish between objects that look the same, such as raspberry jam versus strawberry.
The store appears to be doing well, although as with anything related to results or the future, the retailer’s executives shied from giving away too much when it came to talking about learnings or next steps.
“We wanted to make this shopping experience as natural as possible. We wanted the customer to learn as little as possible,” said Amazon Go vice president Gianna Puerini. “What we didn’t necessarily expect was how many people would stop at the end of their first trip or two and ask ‘Is it OK to leave?’”
To make it clear, the retailer has a sign at the exit saying “You’re good to go. Thanks for shopping.”
Puerini, without citing numbers, noted the company has seen healthy frequency rates of customers who come back to the store, especially from those who work within the same building. Associates who work in the store — the total number of which Puerini declined to state — spend the majority of their time keeping store shelves stocked, with the concept seeing traffic throughout the day: breakfast, lunch, midafternoon snack and dinner.
“We’ve been delighted with the customer response and the store is very geared toward people who are hungry and in a rush,” she said.
As far as integration of Amazon Go into other aspects of the business, Puerini said there aren’t any plans in the near term to tie in incentives for Prime members in a way similar to Amazon Books, where Prime members are offered the online pricing. Is there a place for Amazon Go in Whole Foods? It doesn’t seem likely any time soon.
“We have one store and it only opened Jan. 22 so right now I’ll just have to ask you to stay tuned,” Puerini said when asked that specific question.
If anything, the executive added, she spends most of her time on food production and store associates — things that are new to her but not necessarily new to traditional retailers.
“It’s very much Day One and who knows what will happen as we keep learning. But we’ve been pretty psyched with how much customers seem to enjoy it,” Puerini said.