Checkout-Free Stores From Amazon To Be Opened To Public; Future Of Grocery Industry?

The experiment of Amazon of the checkout-free grocery store has the potential to alter the brick-and-mortar retail format forever as the company opens up its first such store to the public on Monday. The company had been testing the new strategy and technology for over a year now.

What the consumers pick up from the shelves and what they put back are tracked by cameras and sensors at the Seattle store, also known as Amazon Go.

Credit cards on file are used to bill the customers after they have left the store and as such cash registers and checkout lines are out.

Amazon last year bought high-end supermarket chain Whole Foods Market for $US13.7 billion, entering the traditional retail industry and this new technology based innovation presents a case of potential disruption for the industry by a company that is the largest online retailer.

Companies would always be at an advantage if they are able to remove waiting time for consumers as they are deterred by long lines.

Amazon has already stressed that it did not want to introduce this new technology at the bogger and seemingly more complex brick-and-mortar stores of Whole Foods stores and at the same time the company has not made public any plans of the time period that it would add more such Go locations.

During a test phase, Amazon opened up the convenience-style store to its employees on December 5, 2016. The company had expected at that time that such stores would be opened to public by early 2017.

There are however concerns with the new technology such as it is often unable to correctly identify customers who have similar body types. Children, moving items to incorrect places also created problems for the technology when children were brought into the store during the experiment stage.

The Go store worked very well during the entire test phase because of four years of legwork, said Gianna Puerini, vice-president of Amazon Go, in an interview.

“This technology didn’t exist,” Puerini said. “It was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.

“If you look at these products, you can see they’re super similar,” she said of two near-identical Starbucks drinks next to each other on a shelf. One had light cream and the other had regular, and Amazon’s technology had learned to tell them apart.

The Amazon building houses the Seattle store. An Amazon Go smartphone app must be scanned by shoppers and them walk through a gated turnstile to begin shopping.

When shopper enter, there are ready-to-eat lunch items. A small selection of grocery items that also has meats and meal kits can b found a little deeper into the store. IDs of customers are checked at the store’s wine and beer section by an Amazon employee.

Determination of what exactly consumers pick up from the shelves is made possible by weight sensors in the shelves and sleek black cameras placed above the shelves.

(Adapted from SMH.com.au)

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