What would it feel like to live in a world where you could waltz into a shop, pick up whatever you wanted, and bound right out again? No cashiers, no checkouts, no lines.
In its latest effort to disrupt the traditional shopping experience, retail giant Amazon intends to give shoppers the opportunity to find out, with its Amazon Go initiative. The first store ushering in this experience is already undergoing testing in its beta phase, open to Amazon employees and located in the company’s hometown of Seattle.
Amazon Go will focus on groceries, supplementing the online arm of its edible offerings, Amazon Fresh. And while it will not be the first foray into brick-and-mortar stores for the online behemoth, with three bookstores already open, some analysts suggest it represents a tacit acknowledgment that some forms of retail still benefit from a physical presence on Main Street.
“Four years ago, we started to wonder, what would shopping look like if you could walk into a store, grab what you want, and just go?” explains the narrator on a promotional video. “What if we could weave the most advanced machine learning, computer vision, and AI [artificial intelligence] into the very fabric of a store, so you never have to wait in line?”
Here’s how it works.
Shoppers enter the store and pass through a security barrier where they tap their phones to activate the Amazon Go app. From there, the store tracks everything shoppers pick up, automatically charging them via the app for whatever they take with them when they leave.
"The checkout lines are always the most inefficient parts of the store experience," Neil Saunders, managing director of retail research firm Conlumino, told Reuters. "Not only would you save a lot on labor costs, you actually would make the process much quicker for consumers and much more satisfying."
Analysts say that some customers may take a little time to adjust, struggling to shake the feeling that they’re shoplifting. And quite how Amazon intends to stop actual shoplifting has yet to be publicized.
Amazon’s first physical stores were of the literary variety, with bookstores now open in California, Oregon, and Washington – and two more in the works, in Massachusetts and Illinois. But those premises operate with traditional checkouts.
The Amazon Go endeavor begins with its 1,800-square-foot flagship store in Seattle, open to the public in early 2017.
This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.