The footprint of the new convenience store, at Fifth Avenue and Marion Street, is smaller than the flagship location — 1,450 square feet versus 1,800 square feet. Naturally, that means it offers a smaller selection, though the mix is similar — from pre-made meals and meal kits made by Amazon cooks, to other grocery staples, like snacks and beverages.
They also share technical DNA. Cameras and sensor arrays festoon the premises, with computer vision and shelves embedded with built-in scales monitoring what customers grab.
“We wanted to make this shopping experience as natural as possible,” Amazon Go vice president Gianna Puerini told a Shoptalk audience earlier this year. “We wanted the customer to learn as little as possible.”
From the shopper’s perspective, the store doesn’t look particularly futuristic. People armed with the Amazon Go mobile app can simply scan their phones to pass the entry turnstiles, pick up what they need and walk out. The company charges their Amazon account automatically.
The elimination of cash registers looks like a sign of things to come, especially for the grocery business. Go beyond consumer packaged goods, and the notion becomes fraught with challenges. Physical characteristics matter, and clothing and other soft goods aren’t as easy for computers to monitor as boxes or jars sitting out on shelves. So if the cashier-free store hopes to break out of its current bread box, segments like cosmetics could work better than apparel, at least in the near term.
When or if that will change isn’t clear, but for now, the race to banish cash registers sits squarely in the grocery store — and those aisles are getting crowded.
Microsoft has entered the fray, developing its own checkout-free solution. Notably, the Redmond, Wash.-based company inked a partnership deal with big-box chain Walmart, presumably to beat back the Amazon threat. And Alibaba is pushing scan-and-go shopping at Hema Supermarket in China.
Other companies are also nipping at the giants’ heels. Systems like Microsoft partner AVA Retail is gaining steam, while newcomers like start-up Zippin in San Francisco, Tel Aviv’s Trigo Vision and Standard Cognition, which just opened in Japan last week, continue to push the concept to all corners of the globe.
In the U.S., Amazon appears to be mulling over half a dozen new Amazon Go locations in different areas, including Chicago, San Francisco and L.A., as well as additional Seattle outposts. The company did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation or timeline on those efforts.