Did Amazon just put its Go technology in a shopping cart?

Discussion
Photo: Amazon
Jul 15, 2020
George Anderson

Amazon.com is rolling out a new smart shopping cart — Amazon Dash Cart — that will eliminate the need for customers to stop at registers in order to check out of a store.

Similar in some ways to the Just Walk Out technology used in Amazon’s Go convenience format, Dash Cart is designed for small-to-medium sized grocery trips of up to two bags. It uses computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify items placed by shoppers in the cart. When shoppers are ready to check out of the store, they exit through a marked Dash Cart lane where sensors identify the cart and payment is processed using the credit card they use on the Amazon site.

“We’ve taken some of the core technology as well as our learnings from Just Walk Out technology and applied them to the Amazon Dash Cart where possible,” an Amazon spokesperson told RetailWire in an email. “A good example is how we’ve used some of our sophisticated computer vision algorithms that we’ve advanced over time with Amazon Go and Just Walk Out technology. That said, the Dash Cart presents some entirely new innovations both on computer vision and weight algorithms not used in Amazon Go or with Just Walk Out technology.

Shoppers using Dash Cart can access its features by signing in using a QR code in the Amazon app. The cart is outfitted with a screen where customers can access their Alexa shopping lists and view the purchase price of items they are placing in the cart. They are also able to use a coupon scanner in the cart to take advantage of store coupons as they shop the store.


Dash Cart will make its debut at the new Amazon grocery store format the company is opening in Woodland Hills, CA, later this year. The spokesperson described it as “a great opportunity to pair a new innovation with a new store format” before adding, “we’re excited to hear feedback from customers.

Amazon did not offer information on the company’s plans to roll out to any more of its physical store locations or to potentially market the technology. In March, Amazon announced it had begun selling the technology behind its Amazon Go and Amazon Go Grocery concepts to other retailers. At the time, Amazon had said it had signed “several” deals but declined to name the buyers. OTG’s CIBO Express and Cineworld’s Regal cinemas were identified as two possibilities.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect Dash Cart to be in big demand by customers when Amazon opens its new grocery store format in Woodland Hills later this year? What do you see as the challenges and opportunities behind smart shopping cart technology in general and for Amazon specifically?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
" Customers would probably welcome the opportunity to skip checkout, but how well does this work in practice?"
"We do not appear to know how much it costs now to put one of these carts together and how much less it may cost at scale."
"This is one of the rare times Amazon is a follower. There are at least a few other smart carts in operation by various startups..."

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25 Comments on "Did Amazon just put its Go technology in a shopping cart?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is only one of the automatic payment and checkout solutions Amazon is looking at – and that’s very much the point here: Amazon is highly innovative and is constantly looking for ways to disrupt the grocery market (and other industries). By comparison, most other grocers are way behind the curve.

In terms of the application of these technologies, checkout is one of the most inefficient parts of the grocery business. It takes up a lot of space and it takes time and labor resource. Reducing its significance in the shopping process is a key way to improve margins.

Of course, the shopping cart can probably monitor other things too and Amazon won’t be shy about using that data. Whether customers like that or not remains to be seen!

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I’m thinking of privacy concerns here. Interesting but didn’t we see this a year ago from someone else at NRF? Still requires the shopper to take all their stuff out and bag it. Misses on convenience for me.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I agree. I saw this type of technology long ago — products all had RFID tags in them and the customer slid the cart into a well that read all the RFID tags. To Bob’s point, unless you have bags already in the cart, the customer still has to bag their products up before they leave the store.

FrankKochenash
Guest

The video shows that bags are in the cart and that items are scanned when adding to the cart and and placing in the bag. Then the user walks out of the store. It looks like a mobile version of a self-checkout station. I see no usage (or at least required usage) of RFID or of putting it in some scanning tunnel.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

I do recall seeing this technology earlier this year at NRF.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

And it just keeps getting better — and more convenient. Innovation like this will take hold, especially as consumers are wanting a quick, easy and cashless experience. And if successful, it is only a matter of time before Amazon is selling or leasing the technology to other retailers.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

The answer to the question will depend on the cost of deployment and practical considerations. Customers would probably welcome the opportunity to skip checkout, but how well does this work in practice? Can the technology tell the difference between a sweet potato and a white potato? What happens when a customer loads more than “two bags” worth of product? Let’s see how this works.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Cathy, after you have read my post you will see how quickly the same concern jumped out at both of us.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust
This is brilliant, especially as one of the most friction-filled parts of the grocery experience is the checkout process. The checkout experience up until recently had remained unchanged for well over 30 years — there have been no big changes since the scanning technology was introduced. One of the most inefficient and costly components of the grocery operating model in 2020 is the checkout process. The Amazon Dash shopping cart technology is just the kind of disruption the grocery industry needs. Consumers have adapted over the past few years, and especially since the pandemic struck and moved things to a more digital-first and automated model. With an increasing number of grocers offering self-checkouts, BOPIS, and curbside pickup capabilities, the consumers are ready and willing to share their data in order to gain efficiencies. Amazon is pushing ahead with the technology in their stores, however the real challenge is if and when they offer it as a service, and it is scaled out to the traditional grocery stores. There is no question that the consumer adoption… Read more »
Bob Amster
BrainTrust

We do not appear to know how much it costs now to put one of these carts together and how much less it may cost at scale. I will guess that the cart is very expensive and, therefore, I am very skeptical at the moment. Amazon can afford to experiment with many things in order to refine and adopt or abandon. This one is a wait and see for me.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

To me this sounds like Amazon Go on steroids and, really, a learning exercise for Amazon. You are right Bob, the inconvenience of unloading a cart just to re-load purchases into your special container is not brilliant or customer-centric. I don’t see this as exciting, I see it as research being conducted at some level of consumer inconvenience.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Agreed Rich, any consumer should look at this as a data ploy first, “convenience” second.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

As the pandemic makes fast, contactless shopping desirable, many consumers will feel intrigued and excited to try Dash Cart.

Dash Cart is an opportunity for Amazon to directly apply its tech mastery to erode Walmart’s grocery leadership. Integrating QR codes for mobile insights, screens for price transparency and Alexa as a shopping habit helps Amazon build consumer trust, intimacy and loyalty. Speaking of habits, the limited cart size (up to two shopping bags) encourages shoppers to visit Amazon’s stores more frequently for fresh food.

The main challenge this year involves assuring consumers they’re safe in stores. To boost shoppers’ confidence, Amazon can position Dash Cart as an efficient, convenient and contactless experience no other grocer can replicate anytime soon.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

More likely than a national rollout of Amazon grocery stores is a global introduction of Amazon automated checkout systems in multiple forms to retailers in all channels. Cloud technology and other service businesses are rapidly overtaking retail sales as Amazon’s primary profit engine. Combining three of the four cloud pillars (Software as a Service; Hardware as a Service; and cloud data storage) into one product like the Dash Cart is a hyper value-add and would have a very wide competitive moat. If they can figure out how to do it without earth-based physical infrastructure, look for Amazon to enter the fourth pillar of Infrastructure as a Service as well.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust
I think the cart will be used by shoppers and there could be high demand for non-stockup trips. It is another viable checkout option. Let’s hope it works better than self-check scanners as they seem to constantly need associate support. One challenge will be trial of the cart; new technology is intimidating. When I first visited the Amazon book store in NYC a few weeks after it opened, an associate welcomed me and walked me through the process. For widespread adoption, they could need staff support and guidance throughout the store. Maybe Amazon can add a “need help” button 😉 As for bagging, the video implies there are bags in the cart so you would just pick them up and go. Impulse is also an important part of the store experience and store profit. A challenge could be how to find those incremental impulse sales which are lost by avoiding checkout. As Neil wrote, Amazon is ahead of the game and not shy to test and learn. This could end up being a stepping stone… Read more »
Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Seems like an overdue but welcome idea come to life. You have to be concerned about shrink, you’d think, although that’s never seemed to be an Amazon concern. Great test IMO.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust
This will follow the same path as self-checkout with many of the same problems requiring an assistant on the path. Long lines will result if customers are purchasing more than a small number of products. There is a place for the self-checkout on a cart, but it will not replace the regular tills – or even self-checkout. It may be a novelty in Woodland Hills and Amazon has a fantastic marketing engine that drives the solution. However, simpler versions of this technology would be scan and go on the cart and many others that have been developed over the years by companies from Walmart to Sobey’s. Even last year, Kroger and Caper Labs developed even deeper tech that will guide their smart AI-powered cart to products the customer wants in the store. Amazon’s product will need to go through a few evolutions to catch up – but I suspect they’re planning for that already. An inherent problem will be managing the fact that 2 million carts are stolen each year from just food service providers,… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
I see this as another experiment by Amazon for an alternative to scaling the Just Walk Out technology from Go stores. It’s interesting to see Amazon iterate on its checkout-free technology where each version allows for a larger basket size. Go stores were pure c-store and assumed the customer would just buy a few things and walk out – the ultimate in convenience. The Amazon Go grocery store we most recently saw was likely designed for a full grocery bag sized purchase. These Dash Carts are designed for two grocery bags. All of these versions imply consumers will regularly frequent the store to buy groceries vs. an approach many have adopted during the pandemic where they buy many bags of groceries to last them a week or two. Each iteration is a step forward to a full line grocery shopping experience and incrementally improves on their technology. I expect these are intentional in that Amazon’s vision of that “big” grocery haul is for customers to rely on Amazon Fresh-type delivery every week or two for… Read more »
Rachelle King
BrainTrust

If the carts will be in big demand later this year depends on where we are with the pandemic. We have seen pandemic shopping trips become less frequent but with larger baskets. So that could present some headwinds for a cart designed for smaller-sized shopping trips.

However similar technology revealed at NRF earlier this year does suggest consumer interest for this level of convenience. Still, similar to the scan-and-go technology seen in Walmart and other stores; consumer interest and consumer adoption are not always on the same scale, especially in such a habitual practice as grocery shopping.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

This is one of the rare times Amazon is a follower. There are at least a few other smart carts in operation by various startups (Caper and Veeve come to mind) that have much more real customer usage they’ve learned from. Amazon will only be successful with the program if the UI is top notch and doesn’t add time or frustration in getting setup. It’s a logical step to take the Just Walk Out promise of Amazon Go into a larger format location. Living in LA I’ll be one of the first people over there to check it out.

James Tenser
BrainTrust

Who needs autonomous inventory scanning robots when you have an army of shoppers pushing sensor-festooned carts all around the store? Amazon Dash Cart is more than a contactless payment solution — it’s an in-store sensing solution.

This makes me believe Dash carts could replace the numerous ceiling-mounted and shelf-edge sensors and cameras that are a central feature of the Amazon Go stores.

Since each shopper links their mobile device with the cart using the app, it creates a promising channel for personalized promotions, behavior tracking, and “what aisle?” queries.

The user experience looks like a bit of work, however. Items still need to be passed in front of the scanner one by one and PLU numbers entered manually!

Lucky for Amazon that their pockets are deep. I forecast a long learning curve.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

I just don’t see this being a big success. Most shoppers won’t want to bag their own groceries. It’s as simple as that.

FrankKochenash
Guest

It looks like it may be a good feature for the “two bag” trip. The cart looks too small for larger stock up trips which will be limiting. As such, I expect quick follow-on versions. Additionally, I’d encourage us (and brands) to consider this not just as a mobile self-checkout tool, but as a personal shopping assistant. With this Amazon could enable pharmacy ordering, fresh deli ordering, butcher/bakery ordering while the customer picks up produce and consumables. Also, it can help with queries like “where are the dried porcinis?” I think this is a bit a Trojan horse in the sense that it can lead to more types of digital engagement with the customer in-store.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Customers at Woodland Hills will likely try out the Dash Cart when it comes out. Whether they will remain using it is another issue. The fact that items must be barcode scanned when placing them into the cart requires diligence on the part of the shopper, especially those items without a barcode on them like much of produce. Shoppers who use self checkout will find this process familiar, but those that go the manned checkout lines will not like this process and will avoid Dash Cart. Even those that are used to self checkout can talk to a store clerk at checkout, but will not be able to do so in the store with Dash Cart.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This is really a solution looking for a problem. Self-scanning lines at stores are not much different than this. They have special lines, coupons are scanned at the register instead of the cart, and most self-scanning customers have fewer than 2 bags of groceries, so they are fast and nimble. Unlike the Dash Cart, you don’t need to sign in, or access any account. Simply take your products, scan them at the register, pay and go. The Dash Cart doesn’t seem to offer much of an advantage, and it will certainly cost money … Hmmmmm….

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
" Customers would probably welcome the opportunity to skip checkout, but how well does this work in practice?"
"We do not appear to know how much it costs now to put one of these carts together and how much less it may cost at scale."
"This is one of the rare times Amazon is a follower. There are at least a few other smart carts in operation by various startups..."

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