Amazon is getting more serious about its brick-and-mortar retail ambitions with its first-ever Amazon-branded grocery store, which opened yesterday in Seattle, confirming reports from last year that Amazon was developing a more ambitious version of its cashier-less Go model.
Photo source: The Verge
The new store,is indeed modelled after a standard Amazon Go location, but it has been expanded to include a wide array of grocery items you’d find at, say, Amazon-owned Whole Foods.
Amazon says the store combines the product availability and low prices of a grocery chain like Publix or Walmart with the convenience and quick shopping times of its Go model, with a selection that includes both big mainstream brands and local, organic produce. It joins the nearly 20 Go stores currently open throughout the country in cities like New York and San Francisco.
Amazon Go stores use overhead cameras and computer vision technology, paired with smartphone geofencing, to track both shoppers and items throughout the store. That way, the system can identify when a specific person has picked something off the shelf and placed it in their cart, and even when they decided to put something back.
The end result is that customers don’t have to sit through check out. When you’re done at a Go store, you just walk out and your receipt is sent to you through Amazon’s companion app. The same is true of Amazon’s new grocery store, which features shopping carts, but no checkout lanes or counters.
Amazon says its Go system has been trained to handle tricky situations that are unique to grocery stores, like customers handling unpackaged produce that looks similar and sits next to other fruits and vegetables or unboxed baked goods that might get stuffed into a single plastic bag. You can even buy alcohol by taking it off the shelf and walking out, although a human employee will have to check your ID before you enter the store if you intend to peruse the libations aisle.
Go stores have so far focused on prepared foods, snacks, and a light amount of grocery items including frozen food and condiments. Some have acquired licenses to sell alcohol, too. But no Go store to date has the size or scope of Amazon’s new Go Grocery, as it’s called. The location, at 610 E. Pike Street, is 10,400 square feet, while a standard Go store tends to fall between 1,200 and 2,300 square feet.
This grocery effort is starting small, Amazon’s Dilip Kumar, the company’s vice president of physical retail and technology, explains. Kumar says Amazon has no immediate plans to open more grocery stores. But if it succeeds, an Amazon-branded grocery store using its Go model, which allows customers to get in and out much quicker, could become a fast-growing avenue for the e-commerce giant to continue expanding its offline footprint.
And according to Kumar, Amazon Go Grocery is not intended to be competitive with Amazon’s Whole Foods chain, but complementary instead. “Customers shop in many different ways, in many different locations. Sometimes you want it to be delivered, some times you go to the store, some times you go to Whole Foods. Our job is to be able to figure out how to add value,” Kumar says. “Because the customer has different needs... and different things that they look for at different stores, what is it we can do here in this type of format in this neighbourhood to add value? That to me is the selection we carry, the pricing we have — plus the convenience of just being able to walk out.”
While Amazon dominates many sectors of online retail, it has yet to make large inroads into the much larger offline retail market, a large segment of which is related to food and beverage consumption.