Amazon

AmazonFresh Pickup Gets Smart

Ecommerce giant Amazon is increasingly dipping its virtual toes into the physical world, this time with the launch of the AmazonFresh Pickup service in Seattle’s Ballard and SoDo neighborhoods.

Amazon Prime members can now order groceries online and pick them up at one of two designated windows in the city where the company keeps it headquarters. For users willing to pay an extra $15 per month to get the Fresh add-on, pickup can be scheduled for as soon as 15 minutes after the order is placed. All others must select a two-hour pickup window on a first-come, first-served basis.

At the pickup window, Amazon will be able to serve customers quickly and accurately with license plate-matching technology that can automatically recognize customers’ vehicles when they arrive (though users can opt out if that feels a little too much like Big Brother is watching). The match is made on a customer’s first visit to the window, and the system saves it for future pickups.

The Ballard location is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and has nine customer parking spaces, each with a monitor to identify and match customers’ license plates. The SoDo location shares real estate with Seattle’s other darling, Starbucks, and a Prime Now distribution hub.

Amazon didn’t invent the “click and collect” grocery arrangement. Similar pickup services are available at traditional grocery stores, as well. It remains to be seen whether customers will switch to Amazon or stick with their trusted grocery providers (including a Fred Meyer that offers pickup not far from AmazonFresh’s Ballard location).

AmazonFresh Pickup first launched in March, but until now, it was only available to employees as part of an internal beta test. AmazonFresh has been around since 2007, starting in Seattle and eventually expanding into the national arena.

In other news, Amazon opened its first New York City brick-and-mortar bookstore this week. Last year, the company unveiled an Amazon Go automated convenience store in downtown Seattle, though its public opening has been delayed due to technical difficulties.

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