Mar 17, 2018 | By Nigel Taylor
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Amazon has unveiled a game-changer small-format physical store, called Amazon Go, that sells groceries but also gets rid of tills and queues and makes the shopper’s smartphone the key tool.
It may seem like a shoplifter’s paradise as shopper just pick up their goods and walk out but it’s actually a reflection of ultra-tech in action (see video below).
It leapfrogs over the unpopular self-service till concept used by many supermarkets and instead uses cameras and sensors to track shopper actions. Shoppers are charged automatically for their purchases in a physical version of Amazon’s one-click ordering online system.
Industry watchers said Amazon is also believed to be working on at least two other physical food store concepts as grocery shopping remains a major household expense that most people prefer to do in person rather than online. Kantar Retail says online grocery shopping still only makes up 1% of the total market in the US.
Other formats are believed to include a larger store type with a kerbside collection options and a drive-through ‘store’ that does not have an in-store shopping option.
For now though the new Go store covers 1,8000 sq ft on 7th Avenue in Seattle and is currently in a test phase so can only be used by Amazon staff. But it will widen out to the public early next year and analysts said it could go international if the US test goes well.
They also said that the concept could roll out to other non-food categories and be a key way for stores to cut costs.
As with many of the latest tech developments, it works via a smartphone app, called Amazon Go, with users tapping their phones at tech barriers on entry. After that, they can just pick up what they want and go.
It relies on vision-based systems such as those used in self-driving cars, as well as machine-learning and multiple sensors, making the system much ‘smarter’ than the average self-service till in a supermarket. This should also avoid the frustrating “unexpected item in bagging area” problem that has made existing self-service tills a less than popular option.
The new store offers groceries, fresh foods, ready-to-eat meals made by on-site chefs and local businesses. It also sells meal kits, which are surging in popularity in the US.
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