Just weeks ago, Amazon – the company arguably most responsible for destroying brick and mortar retailers — launched its first brick and mortar convenience store. It’s called Amazon Go and it looks much like a high-end neighborhood grocer or a fancy CVS, Walgreens or 7-Eleven. Do you need perishables like milk and eggs, local breads and artisan cheeses or c-store staples like over-the-counter medications and microwavable burritos? Amazon Go apparently has it and according to the WSJ, there may be 2,000 locations coming soon.
But it’s not the inventory that Amazon is working on at the test location in Seattle. It’s the shopping experience. Amazon calls it “just walk out technology” but its similar to the checkout-free shopping we’ve seen trialed for years in RFID and payment scheme pilots.
There is no waiting in lines to scan items and pay. Instead, in-store software knows who you are, what you pulled from the shelves and how you are going to pay … duh, Amazon 1-Click.
In the video below, we see a shopper launching the Amazon Go app on his phone and scanning the QR code that appears on the mobile screen at a turnstile as he enters the store. This tells Amazon who he is and as he grabs items from the shelves, they are automatically added to his virtual cart. If an item is returned to the shelf, it is removed.
In a move that would excite my daughter and most college guys, one shopper can be seen feeding on items straight off the shelf. I guess this doesn’t matter any longer since you buy things when grab them.
From an identity perspective, this concept — while not necessarily new — shows the power of identity in retail environments. The transaction is really less a payment transaction than verification of identity. The app is bound to the handset and the individual. The Amazon profile is bound to the app, and the payment mechanism is bound to the profile.
Identify the app in store and all is good to go.
There are plenty of questions that arise:
- Are there any truly significant barriers to entry for established retailers that like the concept?
- Does this add significant benefit to the self-checkout lines already common at retailers like Home Depot?
- Is the time saved more valuable than the human contact that neighborhood shops provide?
- Who is going to employ all those displaced checkout clerks?
Right now, the store is only open to Amazon employees but this is expected to change early next year. So if you are in Seattle, download the app and swing by for some artisan cheese or a nuked burrito. It’s at the corner of 7th Avenue and Blanchard Street.
Checkout the video here: