On Monday, Amazon.com will open its grocery store of the future to the public where they won’t have to check out. This experiment could drastically change the landscape of brick-and-mortal retail stores and the company is moving forward with it after testing for a year. Known as Amazon Go, the store in Seattle relies on sensors and cameras for tracking what shoppers take from the shelves and what is placed back. Checkout lines and cash registers are superfluous in the store as customers are automatically billed after they leave the store and the credit cards on file are used for this purpose. The opening of the store marks another potential disruption for grocers at the hands of the largest online retailer in the world.
Last year, Amazon spent $13.7 billion for acquiring the high-end supermarket chain called Whole Foods Market. Shoppers don’t enjoy standing in long lines and this will give advantage to a company that can figure out how to eliminate them altogether. It was not disclosed by Amazon if and when it will open more Go stores and also asserted that it was not planning to use the technology for the more complex and considerably larger Whole Foods stores. Amazon opened the convenience-style store on December 5th, 2016 to its employees as part of a test phase.
At that time, the ecommerce giant had said that it expected members of the public to be able to use the store from early 2017. But, a person familiar with the matter said that there were some challenges to overcome first. The person said that the challenges included identifying shoppers with similar body types correctly. It was also revealed that children had wreaked havoc in the store when they were brought in because they moved the items to incorrect places. Vice president of Amazon Go, Gianna Puerini stated in an interview that due to the legwork conducted four years before, the store had worked well during the testing phase.
Moving through the Seattle store, Puerini said that the technology hadn’t existed before and they had had to enhance machine learning and computer vision to make it possible. Pointing at two almost-identical Starbucks drinks that were placed on the shelf next to each other, she said that lots of products were similar and Amazon had taught its technology to tell them apart. An Amazon office building houses the store, which is spread over 1800-square foot. In order to shop from there, customers are required to scan an Amazon Go app and will then be allowed to pass the gated turnstile.
When shoppers enter the store, there will be ready-to-eat lunch items and a selection of grocery items such as meal kits and meats can be found deeper in the store. In the wine and beer section of the store, an Amazon employees will check the ID. Sleek back cameras have been placed above for monitoring purposes whereas shelves have been equipped with weight sensors to identify what is taken by the shoppers.