What’s It Like To Shop At Amazon Go?
Rather than offering a direct model for retail and groceries, Amazon Go offers a look at what the convenience store of the future might look like.
While every retailer pays close attention to whatever Amazon does, the “no checkout like” Amazon Go store the company opened at the end of 2016 seemed like it would usher in a wave of cashierless shopping and the “internet-ing of stores.”
Well, that hasn’t come to pass, though QSRs like Jack-In-The-Box has planned to add more self-checkout kiosks at its locations. But the experience of not having to do anything to complete a transaction after grabbing an item in retail store is still unique to Amazon Go.
As for the experience of literally shopping-and-going itself, Tim Zuckert, VP of Enterprise Sales at Yext (Full disclosure: Yext owns GeoMarketing. More details on that relationship here), explored Amazon Go for the first time during a trip to Seattle last week. We sat down and asked him for his take.
Zuckert’s main takeaways:
- You have to download the Amazon Go app before you enter the store
- You connect it to your Amazon account with your User Name and Password
- You use a Scan Key to enter the store.
- Then you shop as you would normally
- Everything is clearly marked with the price.
- Very limited selection focusing mostly on fresh prepared food (sandwiches, salads) but also a limited supply of all other categories
- Store space is 1,800 sq feet (very small)
- When you leave the store you go back through the ‘turnstyle’ and then you are automatically charged
- A receipt showed up on my phone about 10 minutes after I left
- You have the ability to request a refund, but the items on my receipt were just what I bought
- Overall very convenient and there were people stocking the shelves who could answer questions about where you can find certain items.
Zuckert was naturally aware of Amazon Go’s launch as an artificial intelligence-driven shopping experience, so this trip to the store was out of curiosity as opposed to actual need.
“I was there on Monday, about mid-morning,” Zuckert said. “I thought it would be interesting just to see how they’re doing it. There a bit of line outside to get in, but I didn’t wait more than 5 minutes. While you’re waiting in line, they ask you to download the Amazon Go app, which I was able to finish download.”
Unlike the experience of shopping at an Apple retail store, where a user needs to have access to the in-store wi-fi to complete a purchase within the Apple Store app, no wi-fi or Bluetooth necessary, Zuckert noted.
“You just sign into the app — that’s it,” he said. “They ask you of stand to the side until the sign-in process is done. When you get that, a QR Code appears with your name. You use that to take your phone and scan yourself in and then the turnstyle arms open up, and with that, you’re inside.”
Not A Supermarket
As a store, Amazon Go has a very limited selection, Zuckert said.
“It was primarily fresh, prepared foods like salads and sandwiches,” he said. “It’s in an Amazon office building, so I would guess that the primary shoppers are staffers using it to go and get their lunch or a snack.”
He compared the selection to that of a convenience store — it’s strictly pre-packaged basics.
“They have a very limited selection of a lot of different things,” Zuckert said. “It seemed to me that there was a mix of people in there shopping for their lunch, as well as tourists or people who were curious — or people like me who wanted to go in and see what it was like.”
And there’s no shopping for produce, where you remove an item, weigh it and add a barcode sticker to checkout.
“I didn’t see anything that required being weighted to purchase,” Zuckert said. “Everything that I saw had a specific SKU and price associated with it. So, you’re taking an item down and putting it in your bag. The square panels in the ceiling are monitoring or scanning products as they’re coming off of the shelves.”
Zuckert’s trip around the store was a total of nine minutes in and out.
“It was pretty quick, because I had a meeting that I was going to, so I picked up some items,” he said. “They give you these orange recyclable bags that say, “Amazon Go,” on them. It was kind of a collectors item.
I put the items in the bag and then I just walked back up to the same spot where I had entered, and just walked out,” Zuckert said. “Then, several minutes later, I got a notification that I had been charged. I got an email with the items. It gave me an opportunity to ask for a refund on any item. I guess, just in case you were overcharged for something, you would have the opportunity to ask them for a refund. I’m not sure how they would validate how you had actually left with the item or not.”
Expanding The Amazon Go Model
Since Amazon acquired Whole Foods last summer, there has been a lot of conjecture about how the two brands would influence the other. It initially seemed reasonable to assume that Amazon Go would serve as the evolutionary model for Whole Foods.
But Zuckert isn’t so sure that applies, at least in this current experiment.
“Whole Foods would probably be 30 times larger than Amazon Go,” he said. “It was a really small, kind of like a bodega or a modern-day convenience store. Not even the size of what we know as drug stores, like a CVS or a Walgreens.
“If the technology gets perfected, where you can go in and do your shopping and walk out, it certainly could work in a grocery store,” he continued. “I don’t know how they’ll deal with individual items that require weighing. That’s kind of an interesting question. If I went back, I would look more to see if they had those. I don’t think that they did.”
A Modern Day Automat
People who were shopping at the same time as Zuckert seemed to be enjoying it, he said. There was a ton of excitement in the air about the idea of being able to shop without having somebody there.
“I did find having the associates available to answer the usual kinds of questions, around where things are, was helpful,” Zuckert said. “There’s a store tutorial that you could watch, that shows you how to use the app to go in. That was the gates, then anything you take off is added to your virtual cart. Anything you put back comes out of your virtual cart. That’s interesting. It says, ‘Products you take go into your virtual cart. Please don’t take things for other shoppers.’ So, it’s keeping track of what you have.”
Zuckert found the pricing at Amazon Go to be fairly competitive. It wasn’t being charged a premium for shopping there. If anything, he thought the products were discounted.
“For example, two Chobani yogurts are .99 cents,” he said. “I’ve seen them for up to $1.50 in certain grocery stores. Personally, because it’s such a new concept, I think they could have some more collectable items for people who are going there. A lot of people who are coming to that particular store are traveling from other places, so maybe more travel kinds of items and more things that are from the Pacific Northwest. There really wasn’t much of an emphasis where the store actually was. It was more salads and sandwiches.”
Compared to Amazon’s other brick-and-mortar examples, such as its Amazon Bookstores, Amazon Go doesn’t have the “Amazon recommendations” showcasing certain products. There was none of the signage at Amazon Go featured in its physical book stores that say “People who like this also like these things” or “Top picks in this zip code.”
Overall, Zuckert described Amazon Go as “a bit cleaner and more sophisticated” than the average convenience store. Pricing was very clearly marked. When items were sold out, it very clearly said that this was not available anymore.
“From a shopping standpoint, it almost reminded me of a modern day Automat,” Zuckert said, referring to the global chain of restaurants that sold sandwiches and drinks via compartmentalized vending machines starting in 1895 and lasted through the 1970s in the U.S.
As for how Amazon Go fits into the range of branded Amazon products, from the Kindle to the Echo, it’s clear that the store is going to have an influence thanks to the company’s breadth and focus.
“I didn’t see anything that had to do with voice activation and Alexa at Amazon Go,” Zuckert said. “Nor were they selling any Kindles or anything else Amazon related. But there’s a lot of potential to this store concept and I would imagine that in some way, there will be role for other parts of Amazon’s product line and technology in future versions of Amazon Go.”