News Feature | December 16, 2016

Amazon Unveils New Cashier-less Grocery Store

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Amazon Collectible Coins

Amazon Go stores have no cashiers, no annoying lines, but also no Prime benefits.

Amazon has created its new Amazon Go store, the e-commerce store’s first physical grocery store, which boasts no cashiers and no checkout lines in an effort to improve customer experience and boost sales.  The new store offers a combination of “grocery essentials” and ready-made meals for sale, and customers check in at the entrance of the store with the Amazon Go app which tracks items added to their carts as they shop. The app works through a combination of computer vision and deep learning technologies, according to CNN.

The first store is located in Seattle, the home of Amazon’s headquarters.

"Four years ago we asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go?" the company says on an informational page about Amazon Go.

While the company is moving slowly on its new venture, with the first store open only to Amazon employees, it will be expanded to the general public early next year.

The app does all the work, including tallying the order total, charging it to the credit card linked to the app, and emailing a receipt to the user as they exit the store, according to the New York Post. The company says that their “Just Walk Out”  technology is so advanced that it can even detect when a customer puts an item back, and will remove it from the virtual cart as well.

“Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” Amazon said on an FAQ page.

While the Amazon Go store lacks cashiers, it does include chefs preparing ready-made meals and stocking clerk. And Amazon has also said that the new store will be a source for Amazon Meal Kits, a box of exact ingredients that can be prepped and cooked at home in 30 minutes or less.

Fortune reported that the Amazon Go store announcement is missing any reference to Amazon’s online grocery delivery and ordering service, Amazon Fresh, or any mention of curbside pick-up service. And Business Insider stressed that it is also missing Prime benefits, saying that Amazon is surprisingly not giving any privilege to its Prime members in the new grocery stores, which seems odd in light of the fact that Amazon’s brick-and-mortar bookstore launched last year offers discount prices just to Prime members. The WSJ previously reported that the new grocery stores would be Prime-only.

Business Insider first reported in October that Amazon could potentially create up to 2,000 grocery stores in the U.S. alone. According to Cowen & Co.'s analyst John Blackledge, Amazon may be trying to gauge the marketplace before instituting Prime benefits, like it did with its bookstores.  "Amazon’s doing a lot of things to increase conversion of Prime members, so this might be a way to first expand their customer base and then over time, convert non-Prime members to Prime members," Blackledge told Business Insider.