On The Go
What would shopping look like if you could just walk into a store, pick up what you want, and go?
That concept is at work at Amazon’s newest retail venture: Amazon Go. Using machine learning, computer vision technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) the 1800-square foot retail space has eliminated registers, checkouts, and lines associated with a traditional grocery experience. Users now just simply scan an app as they enter and the system keeps track of each item added or subtracted from the cart as-it-happens until the shopper leaves the store.
The concept – opened two days ago – is only open to employees for beta testing, but that didn't stop us from observing Amazon Go from outside to see what insights we might be able to glean.
Given the expansive floor to ceiling windows of the building, there’s plenty opportunity to watch consumers navigate the ready-to-eat food options for breakfast, lunch, snacking, and dinner at the focal refrigerated display, but it’s the presence of employees fixing, preparing, and cooking from within the glass corridor wrapping around the east and south interior walls – like a live window display that’s been animated by removing mannequins – that is the most intriguing. It’s food as theatre, with a purposeful nod to freshness. With an interesting tradeoff in labor, of course, because Amazon Go has essentially eliminated checkers for on-site chefs.
Beyond our view, the store looks less like a cafeteria or commissary – selling grocery essentials (ranges from staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates); well-known brands we love (plus special finds we’re excited to introduce to customers); quick home-cooked dinners; chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits (with all the ingredients you need to make a meal for two in about 30 minutes); and an assortment of items from local kitchens or bakeries. That said, when you look at the promotional video about the concept on Amazon.com, it’s vividly clear that this brick-and-mortar location is targeting mindful meal prep: semi-homemade, oven-ready, and pre-cooked options to replace, jumpstart, or supplement how, what, and where consumers eat.
This investment in perishables is a performance right out of the Whole Foods playbook, with added value in one of the commodities that humans cherish most: time. Sure, the use of technology is great, but it’s the speed of service, effortless proficiency void of human error, and anonymity to buy what you want without judgment that could give shoppers an extra reason to spend a little bit more.