Amazon thinks they have the answer for a better retail store. I went to the first Amazon Go store in Seattle to find out if they were right. Below is my review, impressions, and thoughts on the experience.
It’s the weekend. You need to do your weekly grocery shopping for the family. What do you do? You know the drill. Go to the store. Grab a cart. Throw a bunch of items in that cart. Then you proceed to check out only to wait in super long lines because everyone else is doing the same thing. You finally get to the cashier. You unload all of the items you just picked off the shelves to put it on the conveyor belt. You stand and wait once again while the cashier scans every item. You noticed an item was incorrectly scanned twice. You point out the error to the cashier, but they can’t fix it. Oh yes, that’s right, they need a manager to override and void that entry in the system. You wait even longer while the cashier pages the manager over the intercom. The experience tests your patience as well as all of the customers behind you.
Fast forward a few steps, the cashier finally gets everything scanned and the bagger has put everything back into your cart. Now its time to pay. You take out your credit card and attempt the card reader. Wait, is it a chip or do you swipe? You don’t know, but you take a guess and simply insert your card. You and the cashier stare at each other, a few moments pass and then the cashier says, “Oh, you need to swipe because our chip is down.” Fine, you take your card out and swipe. The reader doesn’t read your card. You swipe again. It fails again. The cashier asks if they could see your card. You say, “ok.” They swipe it slowly. It fails again. They try one more time and finally it works! Yayyyy????
Was all that painful to read? Well, you know that I’m right in saying that some variation of that exact experience happens ALLL of the time…and…we put up with it!
Sooner or later someone (Amazon) stopped and said, “You know what? This experience sucks. There is a way to get rid of checkout lines, allow customers to get what they want, and just simply walk out the door.” That store experience is called Amazon Go.
By marrying the three above they call this new technology, “Just walk out.” They are so proud of it they put it on their mug!
For new customers:
For returning customers:
Below is a picture of the entry/exit of the store. This is where you scan your app as you walk into the store.
Some products, like this Amazon prepared sandwich, have barcodes on the packaging. I assume cameras from above can quickly scan these items when you pick them off the shelves.
Need a refund? You don’t need to return to the store. You initiate your own refund and keep the item.
You’ll get this nice Amazon Go bag to put things in if you don’t have a bag of your own.
There were a few things that I found funny and ironic.
I visited the first Amazon Go store in Seattle 1 week after they opened to the public. The premise of the store was to get rid of lines, yet, the store attracted so many curious people that you have to line up to get into the store. The line moved relatively fast and it gave me time to download and setup the Amazon Go App, but nonetheless…ironic.
With all of the fancy technology, they still need people to guard the alcohol section to check ID’s, make fresh sandwiches, and to restock the shelves. When I attempted to buy a bottle of wine there was an Amazon employee that stopped to check my ID in order to let me take alcohol off the shelf. Additionally, there were also a few Amazon employees making sandwiches. I can see a solution where they can automate ID checking. Automating sandwich making would probably be more difficult, but not far behind.
It feels incredibly weird to just walk out once you have everything. The first time I did it, I was looking around conspicuously and felt like I was shoplifting. I wanted someone to tell me thanks for shopping.
Every time there is a new disruptive technology or solution, everyone comes out with their pitchforks. Amazon Go’s new shopping experience is challenging our core beliefs of what we all think a shopping experience should be. It’s breaking down a lot of people’s worldview…making people angry! In psychology, it’s called the backfire effect and this comic by The Oatmeal explains it in the most entertaining way possible.
Here are some of the reactions I’ve already heard when speaking to some of my friends and family.
Jeff Bezos has said that it will always be “Day 1” at Amazon. A tagline that is meant to convey that Amazon will always be a startup. You can be assured that Amazon has already thought through, at a very deep level, the solutions to all of the aforementioned bullet points. There may be some edge cases that they don’t know the answer to, but as with any attitude in a startup environment, they accept those risks and go straight to market to hunt for answers in the real world.
During my 7 minutes and 23 second store visit, I witnessed 2 dozen employees spaced equidistant apart in their 1,800 square feet store vigorously typing on their smartphones. They are very hard at work noting what is working and what needs improvement.
At the time of this writing, it has only been a month after Amazon launched its first Amazon Go store. Recode just reported that Amazon will be planning to open six Amazon Go stores in 2018. With Amazon recently purchasing Whole Foods in 2017, someone there is already starting to think really hard about how to roll out “Just Walk Out” technology to its stores. If you work in retail, I don’t blame you for going through the backfire effect. Have your moment, collect your thoughts, but don’t dismiss what they are doing.
It’s obvious that I like the store. In a lot of ways, it is really inspiring. The days of long painful checkout lines are limited. Checkout throughput at stores will be increased and payroll costs will be reduced from increased automation and cashierless operation. Amazon is attacking the pain of buying products on two ends of the spectrum. Fast online delivery and fast retail checkout experience. Who doesn’t want this?
Very close to the Amazon Go store and next to their Day 1 Office is their newly finished Sphere offices. Looks neat, but you can only admire it from outside if you are not an Amazon employee.