Amazon’s long-awaited cashier-free store prototype, Amazon Go, has finally opened in Seattle, and it’s something totally new and unexpected.
Although, by now that’s basically what everyone has come to expect out of Amazon, so maybe in a way it was wholly expected. Amazon won’t say much about what it plans to do with the technology in the long-term, but in the short-term, anyone who has an Amazon account and is near the Seattle shop has an opportunity to experience the future of shopping today.
How Amazon Go Goes
The Amazon Go shop is an 1,800 square foot market filled with convenience foods like soda and potato chips, as well as items you’d normally find at Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery chain. It also contains a stunning array of sensors and cameras that helps the store keep track of purchases. In fact, a shopper can’t even get into the store without having the proper app installed and active on their phone.
Without a need for shopping carts, shoppers simply bag the groceries they need as they go, and the sensors keep a tally. When a product is removed from the shelf, it’s added to a customer’s tab; if it’s put back on the shelf, it’s subtracted. It’s simple math made possible by incredibly complex artificial intelligence and computer learning algorithms.
Once the shopping is complete, a customer need only carry their bags out through the same gates they entered, and within minutes Amazon will send them a receipt for their purchase. For the socially anxious, those tired parents in a hurry and the people who would just rather be anywhere else, it’s the ideal way to avoid all human contact.
Where Do the Cashiers Go?
There are about 3.5 million cashiers working in the United States in shops very similar to the Amazon Go in Seattle. If this technology is adopted in more chains, what happens to them? How much real human impact will this kind of equipment have? Grocery stores are notorious for running on thin margins, being able to eliminate salaries could be a huge benefit for owners.
In the Amazon Go there may not be cashiers, but there are plenty of people milling about. Some are helping customers with the new technology, others are preparing fresh foods for sale in the shop. Another group helps restock shelves.
Even without cashiers, there are plenty of jobs needing to be done within the Amazon Go. It’s a good assumption this will be the case, at least in the near-term, for any other grocery store that would adopt the same tech were it to be made available. The main difference for new adopters would be that the shopping experience could become remarkably more efficient for customers, eliminating long lines and increasing loyalty for shops that ease the stress.