You should never bet against Amazon, unless you're a masochist, which I am not. So, I'm going to predict that the newly-announced Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores will be wildly successful when they are rolled out, beginning with the first store in Seattle in early 2017. I also expect that these stores–there may be up to 2,000 stores ultimately, coast-to-coast–will be customer experience trendsetters, not only in convenience stores and groceries, but elsewhere in retail and in other industries as well. We don't know many details yet of the Amazon Go model, except that it's designed so customers will be able to enter the store, purchase items, and exit entirely without employee intervention. After you're registered automatically via your smartphone as you enter, you can take items off the shelf, put them in your shopping basket, change your mind and re-shelf them, grab more items, and ultimately walk out the door, at which point your purchase will be calculated accurately and charged to your phone/card account.
Cashierless store Zippin will open its doors to customers in San Francisco for the first time this week, beating Amazon Go to become the first cashierless store in the city. The first Go store opened in Seattle in January. New cashierless stores from Amazon are scheduled to be opened in San Francisco and Chicago, Amazon announced in May. An Amazon spokesperson asked for details about when additional Go stores will open had not responded at the time this story was published. As with Amazon Go and competitors like Inokyo, which opened a cashierless store in Mountain View, California last week, to shop at the Zippin store you must first download an app that gives you a QR code and then scan the code when you enter the store.
Cashierless checkout technologies today are delivered in two iterations. The first takes the form of a typical mobile self-checkout -- a shopper scans products with a mobile device as they browse the aisles, then pays for the transaction via a mobile app without having to fumble through their wallet for cash. Consumers are warming up to the concept, with 48% of U.S. consumers expressing the belief that scan-and-go technology would make shopping easier, and 43% saying they would rather try scan-and-go than wait in a checkout line, according to data from GPShopper. The more recent iteration of cashierless has been heavily publicized with the openings of the first 10 Amazon Go stores. Most of the major players within this space have combined AI- and computer vision-based technology with in-store sensors.
The company's Fayetteville, Arkansas location is removing not just its clerks, but also its checkout line conveyor belts, according to a local Fox affiliate. Walmart says that this is a strategy to limit human interaction, but could also help customers pay and leave the store faster. If all goes well, the company could expand the concept to more locations. While it's ideal to limit human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, large retailers have been hoping to reduce or remove their cashiers for years. Whether this move is truly done in the name of public safety -- or if it's a way to cut costs -- isn't clear.