Amazon Go goes live

Photo: Getty Images
Jan 22, 2018

After nearly 14 months of testing its Amazon Go cash-free and cashier-less convenience concept with only its own employees, is ready to open the store to consumers in Seattle. Beginning today at 7:00 a.m. local time, the store will welcome any customers that have an Amazon Go app linked to an Amazon account.

As previously reported, the 1,800-square-foot store uses sensing technology that identifies customers using the Go app as they enter the location. When a shopper takes something off a shelf, the item is automatically added to their virtual shopping cart. Amazon bills the customers’ accounts when they leave the store and posts receipts to the app.

Concerns about the store’s ability to track and charge for purchases appear to have been answered to Amazon’s satisfaction. It was previously reported that the long test time for the Go store was related to problems with sensing technology when the location was crowded with shoppers.

Gianna Puerini, who is leading the Go project for Amazon, did not offer specifics, but said, “the system is highly accurate,” in an interview with The Seattle Times.

The store will offer everyday grocery staples such as bread and milk. It will also feature ready-to-eat meals and snacks made fresh on a daily basis by on-site chefs and local suppliers. Amazon Meal Kits will also be available for purchase.

Interest surrounding the store is largely due to its “just walk out” technology that bypasses the traditional retail checkout process. As of right now, Amazon is staying mum on plans to open further Go locations or export its checkout technology to Whole Foods.

In November, Bloomberg reported that Amazon had shifted from hiring engineers and research scientists for the project to construction managers and marketers, an indication the company is planning to build out the concept to other places.

DISSCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Amazon Go be a hit with shoppers? Do you expect Amazon to expand the store concept? Will it bring the technology to Whole Foods, as well?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"What one-click purchases meant for online, Amazon Go will mean for physical retail."
"Margins in grocery are pretty tight. If inventory starts walking out the door unpaid for, how long can this model make economic sense?"
"Let’s be honest, this is the future of grocery retail. Automating the checkout process removes a significant cost center for grocers..."

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57 Comments on "Amazon Go goes live"

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Mark Ryski

This is the future of retailing, but it’s still just an aspiration. Assuming high accuracy can be achieved, this will be a huge hit with consumers since checkout friction remains a constant source of customer dissatisfaction. While it is an important step for Amazon to be opening the Go concept to consumers, they are still very much in “launch-and-learn” mode. Expansion of the Go concept will obviously depend on the success of these early results, but one would expect that, if successful, they will expand. However, given the significantly more complex environment of Whole Foods, I wouldn’t expect to see this technology deployed there for years.

Art Suriano

Amazon Go should have substantial success in the beginning if due to nothing more than customer curiosity. We love new technology, ideas and opportunities so that will drive customers to the store just to try it. If the customers like the products and convenience, they will continue to come back. However, if the technology is not perfected and causes problems for the customer that will be a significant setback for Amazon Go.

If successful, I would expect to see it rolled out to other locations such as Whole Foods once Amazon is confident the technology could handle the number of items and customer traffic.

Dick Seesel

I assume the long gestation period was needed to test not only the technology but also the merchandise content. From the descriptions of Amazon Go, it is more focused on fresh and ready-to-eat food than a typical c-store and devotes less space to categories like candy, chips and so forth. It will be interesting to read some on-the-ground reporting about what the store actually looks and feels like.

I expect Amazon to be patient with the concept, because some customers simply won’t be comfortable right away with a cashier-less environment. At least for now, human interaction in any kind of store (including a c-store) is part of the equation unless you’re an early adapter of the Amazon Go tech experience.

Bob Amster

It will be interesting to see if customers are more distrustful of being overcharged than the retailers are of customers trying to scam them.

Keith Anderson

I suspect it will take several years before this technology is widely deployed, but Amazon has a great heritage of identifying purchase barriers and using technology to solve problems and improve customers’ experience.

Michael La Kier

Anything we can do as an industry to make the shopper better and faster and help them be smarter is a very good thing. The question will be, how seamless is the technology and how expensive is it to scale?

Chris Petersen, PhD.

There is little question that Amazon will make Go go. As the technology gets scaled, there are significant savings in reduced staffing costs. If there is a question, it will be how widespread the AI impact will be on retail staff employment. This could very well be tipping point in retailing where helpful associates on the floor become a major differentiator over faceless stores.

Charles Dimov

Hit or not, this will change the face of grocery and retail shopping. Amazon has been great at pushing our paradigms and bringing in new technologies and methods — fast. It will take a while before this is mainstream. But the concept is now seeded in consumers’ minds. The next wave of expectations is here and retail needs to adapt again.

Before it goes out to Whole Foods, Amazon needs to figure out how grocery works — and preventing barren shelves is the first among many learning journeys. Welcome to the real physical world, Amazon. 😉

Shep Hyken

Will Amazon Go be a hit with shoppers? YES! And more than anything, this technology will pave the way for other retailers to offer a similar customer experience. So why will shoppers like Amazon Go? It’s easier and more convenient. The friction point of standing in a checkout line is eliminated. The idea of having to reach in your wallet or purse to pull out cash, credit card or checkbook has been eliminated. Once you’re in the system, you’re good to go.

Based on the article’s information, it looks like Amazon will be expanding the store concept. Will it expand to Whole Foods? This concept is just the beginning of showcasing the ability of the technology. This type of technology (or similar technology) should be mainstream for many other retailers in the near future.

Zel Bianco

I think it will be a hit with shoppers as long as the bill matches what they purchased. I really don’t see a down side to this. Who wants to wait in line to pay? Will the technology be brought to Whole Foods? Gee, I hope so, as the lines are generally pretty long, although in a city like New York Amazon better make sure it works when the store is crowded — which means all the time.

Max Goldberg

The store, because it’s so different, will attract crowds. Once the initial hoopla dies down, consumers will continue to shop there, provided it has the items they want, is always accurate and saves time. If the technology works in Amazon Go, I expect Amazon to introduce it to Whole Foods.

Steve Montgomery

The “just walk out” technology is the sizzle of this concept. It seems to work with a limited number of items, but when the market basket gets larger it means the consumer has to be willing to handle not just the payment portion of the checkout process but the bagging as well. Some will like this concept (no longer having to decide which line will move faster, etc.) and others will not. Will it work in a format where the customer has a cart full of groceries? Doubtful.

Brandon Rael

As the old saying goes, “… and so it begins!” After much hype, publicity and excitement, the Amazon Go concept has become a reality. This truly is the future of retailing, however it’s in its infancy stages and will require many more evolutionary steps to scale it to its future potential. The smaller concept stores will be the key to rolling this out.

Anything this innovative and groundbreaking will not only require change management and training across Amazon to support these new concept stores. Consumers who have increasingly depended on their smartphones for everything commerce related will also need to build a trusted relationship with a such a new concept. The advantage out of the gate for Amazon is that they have the ability to flex, scale and grow rapidly in cosmopolitan markets. Another added advantage Amazon has is their Amazon Prime consumer base, which already has the necessary trust and confidence in the brand, and faith that any privacy concerns are mitigated.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
Mohamed Amer, PhD
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
4 years 10 months ago

Amazon has taken its time to ensure that Amazon Go delivers on its aspirations for a quick and easy stop without any queues. It took them much longer to work out the operational and technical steps to make this happen and I expect the store concept to not only be a lunch time hit but also perfect for anytime impulse snack purchases in more dense urban settings.

In effect, Amazon Go is redefining the c-store segment for the 21st century consumer. Amazon continues to leverage their technology R&D to solve existing pain points while it creates higher hurdle rates for others to copy in the short- to medium-term.

Sky Rota
4 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure about it being a hit. The article said, “the store will welcome any customers that have an Amazon Go app linked to an Amazon account.” How do they know if you don’t have the app? Do you show something when you walk in? How will they stop people from stealing? What if I don’t know if I want to get the app yet because I want to check out the store first? Are kids of any age even allowed to have the app? Lots of unanswered questions. Seems like it’s going to be a lot of trouble.