Today Amazon is opening its first grocery store to pilot the use of the retailer’s cashierless “Just Walk Out” technology that has previously powered 25 Amazon Go convenience stores in a handful of major U.S. metros. Based in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, the new Amazon Go Grocery store allows customers to shop for everyday grocery items like fresh produce, meat, seafood, bakery items, household essentials, dairy, easy-to-make dinner options, beer, wine and spirits, and more.
The store is 7,700 square feet in the front of the house and 10,400 square feet overall, making it the largest use of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology to date.
As with Amazon Go convenience stores, shoppers first use the Amazon Go app to scan in as they enter the store, then shop as usual. Cameras and sensors track the items removed from the shelves which are then added to the shopper’s virtual cart. When the customer exits the store, their cart is checked out automatically using their payment card on file.
The end result is a grocery store with no lines or waiting. Meanwhile, store staff are freed up to take care of other aspects of the business like restocking shelves and customer service.
This model has been working for Amazon’s convenience stores where customers come in to grab items quickly. But grocery shopping presents a new challenge for Amazon’s cashierless technology. Grocery shoppers tend to examine items more closely — often picking up fresh produce, giving it a squeeze, then putting it back. They may push the produce around on the shelf to find one they like. Or they comparison shop, by picking up two products to compare labels, then put one in the cart and another back on the shelf — sometimes in an incorrect spot. They even discard items on different isles instead of walking back to return it to the proper area when they change their minds.
In traditional grocery stores, this wouldn’t be an issue — if another shopper later grabbed the misplaced item, it could still be rung up properly. Amazon’s technology may struggle to determine what that item was, however.
The Seattle store is located at AVA Capitol Hill (610 E. Pike Street). Its hours of operation are 7 AM – 11 PM Sunday through Thursday, and 7 AM – midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the typical grocery items, the store promises to offer a mix of organic brands and special finds. Local vendors in the debut assortment include La Parisienne, Donut Factory, Tony’s Coffee, Seattle Bagel Bakery, Lopez Island Creamery, Ellenos Yogurt, Uli’s Famous Sausage, Beecher’s, Eat Local, Sri Bella, Carso’s Pasta Company, and Theo Chocolate.
Reports that Amazon was looking to launch its own grocery store business, separate from Whole Foods, began to circulate last year. But it was unconfirmed at the time whether or not Amazon’s grocery plans included the use of its cashierless, A.I.-driven technology, or if the new stores would be more conventional grocery stores designed also to serve as hubs for Amazon’s grocery-delivery business.
It seems Amazon is interested in testing out how well its cashierless technology can scale, but it’s not yet clear how many cashierless stores it wants to open in the months and years ahead.