Can you imagine never having to wait in line at the grocery store again? Many grocery chains offer home delivery, but you have to pay extra for this service, tip the driver, and you don’t get to pick out your own meat and produce. While it’s nice being able to shop from the comfort of your own home, what if you could go to the grocery store and be in and out in a jiffy? Imagine just putting what you want in your bag and going home; imagine the grocer automatically deducting the money from your account for what’s in your bag as you grab it. Sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?
The idea of not waiting in line at the grocery store may seem a little futuristic, but Amazon believes the future is now, and has recently opened a grocery store that will revolutionize the grocery shopping industry.
Amazon Go is being tested in Seattle, Washington as a store where you can scan in, take what you want, and “go.” An app was created for smart phones, which allows customers to scan or tap the phone on entryway pedestals, logging them into the store’s system. Through this app, you will already have your payment methods stored. As you shop, the app uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sensors to track what you are picking up and putting in your bag. Just as if you were shopping online, every time you add something to your cart, a bill starts to accumulate. Change your mind on an item? Simply take it out of your bag and put it back on the shelf, and the item will automatically be deducted from your account. After you are finished shopping, scan your phone on the way out and the app will formulate a final bill and transfer money from your account to the grocery store. No waiting in line, waiting for registers to reboot when they fail, and no check out terminals needed, which reduces payroll costs for the Amazon grocery store.
This artificial intelligence system was patented by Amazon in 2014; however, IBM began discussing the idea about ten years ago. Amazon Go AI works through a very complex system of microphones, sensors, machine learning, and technology akin to Tesla cars, which is embedded in the store and fixtures. The technology is so sensitive that it can distinguish between two people grabbing an apple at the same time by their difference in skin tones.
Integrating this technology into existing grocery chains such as Walmart or Target would be nearly impossible; the entire store would need reconfiguring with all new fixtures and brand new technology. This type of project would cost billions of dollars per retailer and take decades to pay off, even with the savings in payroll. Amazon, knowing this, has decided to expand its business practices and is putting up brick and mortar retail and grocery stores now.
The company, once online only, has already provided major blows to the book industry through bankrupting Borders Bookstore and throwing punches at the music industry as well. If the test store for Amazon Go in Seattle performs well, consumers can expect Amazon to begin building and expanding throughout the entire country,which will be sure to hurt grocery retailers. They have already begun to open brick and mortar retail stores and bookstores as well. Consumers will soon be seeing the Amazon brand available for all of their shopping needs, online and off.
So far, data suggests that most people still like to do their grocery shopping in person, with only 4% opting to shop online. Instead of trying to build upon the trend of online grocery shopping with home delivery, Amazon will continue to push forward the idea of cashier-less grocery stores. Fresh produce and meats are not available at Amazon Go currently, but that is where the technology and research labs are going to focus their efforts next.
In the distant future, Amazon has suggested trying to optimize drone delivery systems. Federal regulations currently prohibit such a delivery service, especially when dealing with fresh produce, which makes drone delivery seem like a thing of the very distant future. But nonetheless, it is something that Amazon is working on. By the time such technology is given the green light from the government, Amazon will have already perfected the product, and it will launch for testing and research and be available in no time. This company will continue to push technological boundaries and revolutionize the way Americans do business.