Amazon Go has finally opened its automated shopping store to the general public after a year of delays. The store promises “no lines, no checkouts, no registers” — and it could be a turning point for the grocery and retail industry.
Reports that the automated check-out technology wasn’t working as planned started popping up in early 2017. Amazon Go executives, however, suggest otherwise. “We’ve been operational from day one, and (the technology) has performed flawlessly,” said Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go Vice President of Technology, in a recent interview.
“When we first opened (to employees), we knew that we needed a lot of traffic in order to be able to train the algorithms, to be able to learn from customer feedback, from customer behavior.” Kumar insists the year of delays was a necessary part of the machine-learning process used to streamline the customer experience.
When a customer walks into an Amazon Go store, he or she must scan a unique QR code given via the Amazon Go app. Without the app, there’s no getting through the subway-like gates. Then, cameras track shopping habits, identifying when items have been picked up or replaced. Kept items are added to a digital shopping cart. When the customer leaves the store with items in hand, the cart is charged and a digital receipt sent.
The cameras tracking the customers have to be able to follow the movements of large groups of people at the same time. Naturally, it took the cameras a little time to adapt to consumer behaviors. Now that the cameras are working, retailers have been left to wonder at the endless possibilities adaptive cameras present.
For starters, if the Amazon Go model sees widespread adoption, more than 3.5 million American cashiers could be out of a job. The automated stores only really need a greeter, a few helpers, restockers, and chefs to prepare fresh food items.
On top of that, the possibilities for customer purchase tracking and item viewing are endless. Stores will have more detailed in-store data on their customers, which could lead to retailers adopting online purchase suggestions to reflect in-store activities.
Amazon hasn’t commented on whether this technology will be rolled out in their recently acquired Whole Foods stores or if they plan to sell it as a service to retailers. Whatever the future holds, it appears automated shopping is working and here to stay.