20 December 2016

FUTURE TRENDS - Amazon Opens No Check-outs, No Lines Grocery Store

Amazon has consistently lead the industry when it comes to online retailing, recognizing existing demand and creating new opportunities for e-commerce.

As Keary Crawford pointed out in Wired magazine, Amazon uses new technology – such as drone delivery – to add value and flash, but it’s the adaptive, responsive business model that is truly innovative.

The same is true with the company’s new Amazon Go grocery store.

Amazon Go is a brick-and-mortar location, significantly smaller than the average grocery store at only 1,800 square feet, with grocery items such as meal kits, produce, and other staples.

The major innovation? No check-outs, no lines, no cashier. Shoppers download an app, and, using their new “Just Walk Out” technology, the cost of their purchases is added to their Amazon account automatically.

The fact that Amazon keeps its innovations in-house means that they can control the final product in a way that wouldn’t be possible if they tried to partner with another company to roll out cashier-less grocery or convenience stores.

The new Amazon Go stores are another step in Amazon’s efforts to break into the grocery market.

They have already seen success with Amazon Fresh, but the grocery market is hard to break into. Consumers like innovation, but they also have expectations about the grocery shopping experience and have shown a reluctance to embrace innovative grocery models so far.

There are risks inherent in this innovation.

Interest in the innovation is high, and according to research by Morning Consult, 67% percent of adults would be interested in the stores because of the lack of line-ups, and 59% would be interested because they wouldn’t have to use cash or a credit/debit card.

But 52% of adults would be turned off the idea because of the potential loss of cashier jobs.

Economic anxieties, and especially the issue of blue collar job loss, is a huge topic in the American political scene right now, and the timing of Amazon Go’s release might not be ideal.

However, as Hannah White writes at IoT For All, “Automation, big data, and digital systems are all here to stay. The question is, how do we implement these things as a force for good and counteract the economic divide we create?”

Amazon is not known for its focus on employee well-being, and that’s not a great sign for people hoping the company will find other placements for people who might otherwise have been hired as cashiers.

However, it’s possible that the market will open new avenues for work even as it closes more of these automatable positions.

And it’s also possible that Elon Musk, another tech innovator, is right about Universal Basic Income, and the rise of automation will not be the threat that it now appears.

Either way, Amazon Go will offer a new way to skip the line when picking up your groceries.

The store is currently in beta testing in a single location in Seattle, where Amazon employees are the only approved customers. The company hopes to launch publicly in 2017.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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