It has already been a week since the retail giant, Amazon, launched Amazon Go, the first automated grocery store in Seattle. Much to the pleasure of all, this brick-and-mortar convenience store is really living up to the expectations.
This no-cashier, no-queues-at-the-counter grocery store was first made accessible to the Amazon employees back in 2016. By 2017, it was supposed to be made accessible to the common public. After a year of edgy anticipation, the shoppers were finally cordially invited to step into the threshold of Amazon Go. The interiors of this 1800 square feet store reminds you a lot of Whole Foods, the retail store owned by Amazon, except for the myriad of sleek cameras that cloud the ceiling. That should drop you a subtle hint about the technology at work.
It’s hard to convey the look and feel of this futuristic grocery store. You actually have to be there to feel the mesmerism but for those of you who how hadn’t the time or the opportunity to be there in person, we have attempted to capture the essence through this blog post. Read till the end, till you can feel that tingling sensation at the back of your neck at the thought of the really advanced technology that’s backing up the whole endeavour.
What is like inside Amazon Go?
Fabulous, in one word. You can sense right from the start that something is really unusual about this technologically advanced retail store. There are a series of gates that guard the entrance, and it makes you feel like you are about to enter a subway. If this feels a bit weird, it is still nothing compared to the slightly creepy feeling that you get when you walk out of the store. You feel like you have been shop lifting in broad daylight, that is, until you get a notification from Amazon sending you a bill on your app for all the purchases.
What do you need to get in?
You need three things, actually four, to be precise. You need an updated smartphone, an Amazon account and the Amazon Go application, and of course lots and lots of time in hand. No, not because you have to wait in a queue but because you have to jostle your way through the large flock of tourists who have been pouring in from far and near to experience the enigma of the convenience store. Plus, you will take some time to sip in what you see when you visit it for the very first time. So, it’s best not be in a rush.
What all is available within the store?
You can except to find varieties of packaged and pre-made foods: sandwiches, snacks, Amazon meal kits and also some basic things like chocolates, coffee beans and several other items that often make it to your grocery list. Oh! And you will also find the souvenir mug from Amazon flashing the store’s motto “Just walk out shopping” in big, bold letters. However, you will not find too much fresh produce decorating the shelves mostly because items that are sold loose or by weight can get tricky to track without a scale. Also, personal items are kept to a minimum. But to the shopper’s delight, there is an alcohol counter. An Amazon employee sits outside it to check ids.
So, how do they know if I took something
Remember the cameras above? The hundreds of them that embellish the ceiling? They keep a good eye on whatever goes around. Also the shelves have sensors that can detect with any item is picked up. At the entrance, you have to open your Amazon Go app and scan a code. From the moment you step in, it is said, that Amazon starts to track your activities. Everything that you pick from the self to everything you keep back, Amazon knows. It keeps adding them to a virtual cart. Once you walk out of the store, within a few minutes you will feel a slight buzz in your phone. That is Amazon, poking you with a bill.
What about the technology that’s used inside?
Amazon seems reluctant to delve into deep conversations on this topic. All you know is, the technology is highly advanced, no points for guessing. It incorporates sophisticated computer vision and machine learning. Amazon has denied using facial recognition for keeping a track of people. When asked if they are going to incorporate the same technology in Whole Foods, Amazon said that they have no such plans.
So all in all, the first automated grocery store, coming from Amazon is quite a novelty. But that won’t stop people from pondering over some potent questions in days to come: what happens to the 3.5 million cashiers in USA who may be at the verge of losing their jobs once the technology spreads like wildfire? Amazon is of the opinion that it is not about people losing jobs, just changing their job roles. Could that be true? For all the automation around, there are a fair number of human employees who run around the store helping people with small, big things.
Will people miss the human to human interaction at the cash counter? The familiarity of knowing someone for years and stopping for a small talk or will the convenience of a high end technology take over? This is something yet to be seen.