Amazon.com this week announced that it will open a physical grocery store called Amazon Go. The move potentially changes the competitive landscape, with Amazon making a play for the dollars typically spent in traditional grocery stores and big box stores. At just 1,800 square feet, Amazon Go could also provide an alternative for what are called "fill-in trips," quick errands when shoppers need just a couple of items. Often these are trips to convenience stores or drugstores, so the move could also challenge outlets like 7-11 and Walgreens.
The store will be equipped with a web of technology that lets customers fill their shopping bags and simply leave without going through a checkout process or line. This idea has long been talked about in the retail circles, but it has not yet been implemented at major U.S. stores. The promise is that it will save shoppers time.
Here's how Amazon described the experience. Customers download an app and then swipe their smart phones when they enter the store. Then they start picking up groceries. Then what the company calls a combination of computer vision, machine learning and artificial intelligence takes over. When an item is placed in a bag or cart, it is tracked on the customer's phone. If it is returned to the shelf, it is deleted. When the shopper leaves the store, the bill is tallied, a receipt appears on the phone, and their Amazon account is charged.
The first store is scheduled to open in Seattle in early 2017.
Other grocers were probably not too surprised by Amazon’s announcement. There has been talk for months that the company planned to open bricks-and-mortar stores that sold food. It will take a while for the implications of Amazon's move to become clear. Could it spell danger for retail workers? Will customers be attracted to the approach or put off by it's "big brother" technology?
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