Five years in the making, Amazon is opening its first cashierless grocery store on Tuesday (Feb. 25) in Seattle, according to reports.
Amazon Go Grocery is selling about 5,000 stocked items in its approximate 10,400 square foot store, including fresh produce, meats and alcohol. Located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, the space is four times bigger than the first cashierless location that opened to the public in January 2018.
The original Go concept is more of a convenience store targeting officer workers. Go Grocery is a full-fledged supermarket targeting people in residential neighborhoods.
“We’re not trying to be Whole Foods. We’re not trying to replace them,” Cameron Janes, vice president of Amazon’s physical retail division, told CNBC. Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017.
“I think what we’re trying to do here — and with all of our physical stores — is really work backward from the customer, and deliver some differentiation,” Janes said.
Go Grocery works like the iteration of Amazon’s Go convenience stores in that customers enter the store by scanning the app as they go through a gated turnstile. Ceiling cameras and shelf sensors record what people put in their carts and automatically charge their credit card on file as they exit the store.
The technical challenge Amazon faced was ensuring a product returned to a shelf after being put into a customer’s physical cart was removed from a shopper’s virtual basket. This proved harder with individual items like produce.
Dilip Kumar, the company’s vice president of physical retail and technology, told Reuters that Amazon developed its technology to understand the way buyers inspect fruits and vegetables prior to purchase.
“There’s a lot more interaction that tends to happen” with produce than a can of Coke, Kumar said.
Kumar told The Verge that Amazon has no immediate plans to open more grocery stores; however, if the concept is successful, there could be more as the eCommerce giant continues expanding its offline footprint.
“Customers shop in many different ways, in many different locations. Sometimes you want it to be delivered, sometimes you go to the store, sometimes you go to Whole Foods. Our job is to be able to figure out how to add value,” Kumar said.
There are 25 Go stores currently open nationwide in cities like New York and San Francisco.
Since the first Amazon Go store was opened in Seattle in 2018, rivals have started looking for ways to compete. Startups such as Standard Cognition and Zippin are tapping into technology that is reportedly similar to that of Amazon Go. The companies are pitching their technology to sports stadiums, convenience stores and grocery chains, with the promise of bolstering profit margins, reducing theft and automating the checkout process.