Amazon opened their first cashierless supermarket Tuesday, paving the way for a unique shopping experience and showing consumers they mean business.
Back in 2017, Amazon decided to flex its grocery muscle by purchasing Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. A year later, they started opening smaller pop-up shops around major cities in the U.S., implementing the cashierless model.
The small stores offered small snacks and ready-to-eat meals. The difference with this store now is the size of the supermarket — at 10,400 square feet — as well as the wider variety of options.
Based in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, the new Amazon Go grocery store allows customers to shop for normal grocery items, including fresh produce, meat, bakery items, household essentials, dairy, alcoholic beverages, and more.
How It All Works
To shop in the store, shoppers scan a QR code on the Amazon Go app to enter. Cameras and sensors track what’s taken off shelves, and then the items are charged to your Amazon account after leaving.
Cameron Janes, who helps oversee Amazon’s physical stores, told the Associated Press that the technology the store uses was tweaked to account for the nuances that people use to find produce and because nothing is weighed. It takes into account ripeness and the way shoppers handle fruits and vegetables to find the “right one.”
“You’re seeing a lot of big strides in [this] store,” Janes told CNBC. “Produce is a big example of that.”
Janes added that most of the produce and grocery items come from the same suppliers of Whole Foods, but also sell snacks that are typically forbidden from the natural grocer.
There’s plenty of differences from normal supermarkets too. Instead of workers bagging your food, Amazon is giving out reusable bags to use as you shop. And pre-packaged deli and meat options take the place of custom cuts and butcher paper.
“I think what we’re trying to do here — and with all of our physical stores — is really work backwards from the customer, and deliver some differentiation,” added Janes.
Competition: Better or Worse?
While Amazon seems to be making strides, there’s still plenty of other competitors trying similar or better ideas.
Convenience store giant 7-Eleven started testing a cashierless store near its corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas. 7-Eleven told Supermarket News earlier this month that their 700-square-foot store is only for employees, and follows a similar method of shopping.
Walmart — the nation’s largest grocer — has more than 4,700 stores, dwarfing the 500-plus Whole Foods and Amazon Go stores. Walmart’s online grocery service has been very popular with customers, who buy their items online and then drive to a store to pick up their order.
Amazon seems to have the advantage though. Their nearly $1 trillion dollar net worth gives them more money to experiment with, compared to Walmart’s $325 billion. They also seem to have the confidence to launch their cashierless store to the public, especially after testing the technology out in its smaller stores.
Humans Aren’t Obsolete
Despite the cashierless experience, Amazon says there are still people working in-store, but in a background capacity. These jobs include greeting shoppers, restocking products, answering questions, and making product recommendations.
The retail giant explains they’ve changed how they use their associates to optimize the experience — showing that despite the new way of shopping, they still rely on the help of physical workers.
The Seattle store is located at 610 E. Pike Street. If you live in the area, its hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. It remains unclear how many more stores Amazon plans to open.