Amazon’s High-Tech, Self-Checkout Store is Open for Business

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Amazon Go—Amazon’s anticipated high-tech retail outpost— is now officially open with the promise of offering a more convenient brick-and-mortar experience for consumers.

The first Amazon Go store has opened in Seattle, where consumers can browse, shop and buy grocery items, including ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch and dinner kits and beverages, without stepping foot in a checkout line.

“We asked ourselves, what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go,” said Amazon on its website. “Our answer to those questions is Amazon Go and Just Walk Out Shopping.”

By combining advanced technologies, the Internet giant allows consumers to use the Amazon Go app to literally grab and go. Using the same technologies featured in self-driving cars, like computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning, the app automatically detects when consumers take products from shelves and keeps track of consumers’ movements in a virtual shopping cart. When consumers finish shopping, they leave the store and their receipt shows up on their Amazon account.

Amazon Go is the latest—and most buzzed about—attempt by retailers to transform the in-store experience. No doubt executives at other store chains will be watching closely to see if tech tools like this actually help boost foot traffic.

Despite the absence of cashiers, there are sales associates working in the store’s kitchen to prepare food items, stocking shelves and providing assistance with product recommendations. By bridging the gap between tech and human interactions, Amazon is demonstrating that the store of the future could be a healthy combination of both, quieting concerns that innovation will supplant retail jobs.

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[Read more about Amazon’s brick-and-mortar activity: Is Target Amazon’s Next Acquisition? One Analyst Says Yes]

“I can see this technology will be something that will appeal to a very wide range of consumers. Like much of what Amazon does, it is their next step in raising the bar with consumers, and trying to envision for consumers what the purchasing process can be, either online or in store,” said IHL Services analyst Jerry Sheldon, who has been able to shop the new store. “While other technology companies have some nice pieces, from what I observed, Amazon was able to pull it all together, and in a pretty slick fashion.”

The question is whether the concept can scale and withstand regular, heavy foot traffic. Recode wonders what will happen when the store gets crowded, if items are misplaced throughout the store or if consumers with similar features are shopping too closely to each other.

Amazon Go has been greatly anticipated since the company first indicated the store would open in January 2017 but the debut was delayed, reportedly due to tech issues.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon Go’s technology chief, didn’t comment on whether technology hiccups took part in the store’s delayed opening, however, he did discuss why Amazon took its time with Amazon Go’s high tech experience.

“We [originally] felt that we needed to open it up to the public early enough in order to get the traffic that we needed,” Kumar told Recode. “But we were overwhelmed with the amount of Amazon response that we’ve had, so there was no need for us to rush this. We were able to learn what we needed to learn from the Amazon Beta program.”

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