20 Feb Cashier-less Amazon Go Store Hits Customer Experience Mark
Amazon Go Open Date: January 22, 2018
Size: 1,800 square feet
Location: 2131 7th Avenue Seattle, Washington
Hours: 7AM-9PM, Monday-Friday
Technology Used: Computer vision, deep learning algorithms, sensor fusion
Beta Version Open Date: December 5th, 2016 (It was built in Amazon’s Day 1 building, or Amazon Tower II, and only open to employees.)
Why: “We asked ourselves what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go? Our answer to those questions is Amazon Go and Just Walk Out Shopping.”
-Amazon Go FAQ
Imagine walking into a store, shopping to your heart’s content, and then leaving. What’s missing? Mostly cashiers and lines. No money is exchanged in-store. Put your chosen items right into your backpack (We know, we’d feel like we were stealing, too!). Don’t want that item you took off the shelf? Put it back! Don’t worry, you won’t be charged. There’s no standing in line with three items, waiting for someone to check out with a whole cart-full—there’s no standing in line in general!
Sounds like a sci-fi flick, right?
Walk in. Walk out. That’s pretty much the model for the new Amazon Go store that opened up in January this year. No lines, no wait, no checkout—a shopper’s dream come true.
At 1,800 square feet, it’s a small retail store—a bodega or convenient store—that dishes out fresh, ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, many of which are made in-house. People can also buy grocery staples like milk, bread, artisan cheeses, coffee, and locally made items like chocolate. Very affordable ready-to-make, boxed meals, similar to Hello Fresh or Blue Apron, are also on the shelves. You can even get the usual junk foods sold at convenience stores. And there’s a small section where you can buy alcohol, with a human on guard checking I.D.s.
According to the store’s FAQ website, it relies on computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion; the technology used in driverless cars. All you need is an Amazon account (of course!) and a fairly up-to-date iPhone or android smartphone. When customers walk in they scan their phone at one of the sort of subway-turnstile looking kiosk blocks at the front of the store, put their phones away, shop, and leave when they have everything you want.
If you take something from the shelf, it’s queued up on your phone. Put it back and it’s taken off the queue. When you’re done shopping, just leave and your total is deducted through your Amazon account.
Unfortunately, it’s the only one of its kind and we haven’t had a chance to check it out ourselves. However, we got to experience it with the next best thing: online reviews.
People are lauding the store as stepping into the future. One review even likened it to the Netflix T.V. series, Black Mirror, which explores the relationship between not-so-distant future technologies and their operators. One Google reviewer said the Amazon Go store was a “next generation 7-Eleven.” Yelper John M. wrote, “Going to any other bodega/convenient store is like a trip to the DMV in comparison.”
A few mentioned there being a line at the store, but they often countered their own argument with the fact that they were there opening day or week—they expected the line to dwindle as the novelty wore off. One review said he heard “mumblings” of automation replacing human workers, but then turned to see some 20 employees in the kitchen making delicious foods to go on the shelves.
Another Googler said “The future of highly advanced, convenient, and affordable grocery shopping is here!”
On Yelp, the store got one of each one, two, and three-star reviews mostly complaining about the lack of options. One person claimed to have gotten food poisoning while another griped about it drowning in social media fanatics pining to get their next profile picture with their selfie sticks. Negative Googlers mostly complained about robots or Silicon Valley taking over the world *Yawn* along with poor selection (it’s a convenient store for goodness sakes, not a Costco!).
However, it’s pretty evident by the high star-rating and comments that the store is a unique and positive experience. In this case, the lack of customer service partners seems to be the key to an exceptional customer experience. And yes, in this case automation has replaced a position, that being the cashier. But perhaps where money would be spent paying for a human cashier, it is instead put where it counts, in this case the cooks who make quality food items daily. There’s also all that innovative technology stuff that enables a seamless shopping experience (!).
WebPunch comes to mind when considering this automated/human hybrid model as a means for delivering a superior customer experience: We use automated software for aggregating business data and employ human power where it’s needed most, which is working with clients one-on-one.
A New York Times article claims that if the technology used in Amazon Go catches on, it could jeopardize 3.5 million cashier jobs in the U.S.. But the executive director of the Amazon Go project told the Times, “We’ve just put associates on different kinds of tasks where we think it adds to the customer experience.” Ditto and kudos.
Since day one, Amazon.com has pushed the boundaries of commerce, tech, and innovation; with Amazon Go they have not disappointed. We’d say the moon is the next stop, but Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also has a rocket company, so it sounds like they’re already on their way there.