Part 3: Tech-Run Grocery Stores Can’t Come Soon Enough!
By Sophia Fiat
My life as an account executive in PR, a dog mom of two, and a full-time fiancé can get pretty hectic. The last thing I want to do after a long day is suffer through the mundane grocery shopping experience. Patience is a virtue I just don’t have when it comes to buying groceries. Have you ever experienced just wanting to quickly buy that lovely bottle of wine and bag of pizza rolls, and then dash, but instead, you get stuck behind the person shopping for their family of 10? And then to make matters worse… they whip out 100 coupons. Really people? Let’s not even get started on the 10 items or less lanes. I can’t even…
Luckily, that unavoidable and painstaking process is about to disappear – forever! Amazon has truly outdone itself by solving the huge problem of checkout lines. How? Amazon Go is the answer. The retail giant recently introduced the world’s most advanced shopping technology, allowing shoppers to forgo the traditional time-consuming checkout process, skip the checkout line and instead, grab and go. Go figure!
This checkout-free experience is made possible by the same technology used in self-driving cars and cancer screening apps – computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. In Amazon’s layman’s terms, this “technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” which is linked to the shopper’s Amazon account. It doesn’t matter how many times you change your mind about that cupcake, the store’s advanced technology will adjust your virtual cart in real-time. When you’re done shopping, simply walk out of the store. Your credit card will be billed and you’ll receive a digital receipt. It’s a crazy new way of shopping, but it’s a brilliant one.
It’s no surprise that Amazon made the leap to brick and mortar stores. According to Venture Beat, it’s already the fastest shipping service in the U.S., and has made same-day, 2-hour delivery the expectation among consumers. Amazon is also the go-to for product discovery – more than half of shoppers search the site first, before turning to Google. This is a very smart business move for the retailer. It’s all about the company’s strategy to grow its customer base and payment system. Above all else, these stores will certainly drive more traffic to its website. For example, if an item is out of stock in its store, Amazon will easily be able to prompt customers to order the product from its website, often with an irresistible 2-hour delivery window and competitive price. While this is just my speculation, it doesn’t seem far off.
Not only is Amazon growing its own business model, according to Market Watch, it may soon be partnering with payment giant PayPal to reach additional customers and make its products more accessible.
For the critics worried about these stores replacing traditional grocery outlets – fear not!
The first and only Amazon Go store to date, located in Seattle, is just shy of 2,000 square-feet. The compact design allows busy customers to get in and out fast. It’s not currently meant to replace larger stores where people shop at leisure. In addition to traditional grocery items, Amazon Go also features ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and Amazon Meal Kits, which are made fresh by the store’s on-site chefs, and sourced from local businesses. While others may worry this new store model is taking away jobs, it’s likely contributing to more jobs in manufacturing, technology, finance and culinary industries, and supporting local businesses in the process.
As long as I can still get a broad selection of items and my dose of frustrating human interaction at my local grocery store, I really can’t see a downside to Amazon Go. The first store is currently open to Amazon employees only in its Beta program, but is scheduled to open to the public in early 2017. Who wants to book a flight to Seattle in a couple months?
If you’re like me and can’t wait for this, check out the Amazon Go preview here.
All I know for sure is that humans and technology continue to become one, and artificial intelligence is here to stay. It’s up to us whether we hinder or propel this extraordinary merger.