By Andrea Drobna |
On December 5th, 2016, Amazon released an advert for their first ever cashierless store, Amazon Go, aiming for a 2017 launch. Mimicking the BingoBox automatic shops already established in China, Amazon Go allows customers to complete their entire shopping trip without assistance from any employees, instead scanning their phone as they enter the shop to create a running tab of the items they place into their baskets. After customers are done picking out their products, they simply walk out as the bill is applied to their Amazon account.
No lines, no checkout, what’s not to love? Well, when the Amazon Go shop opened a test run trail of the store to employees in 2016, there were some faults. An insider told the Guardian that the system occasionally misidentified people with the same body types, and often got overwhelmed by children picking up too many items at once. Despite faults, head of Amazon Go, Gianna Puerini, said the store operated quite well during the test phrase. Fast forward to the launch date, and people were queuing up around the block to give Amazon Go a whirl.
Reviews were rave; only a week after launch, another store opened in downtown Seattle, with the third store in Chicago following in early 2018. Amazon is planning to have 10 Amazon Go stores open by the end of this year, with an additional objective of 50 shops in major metropolitan areas by 2019. With plans to expand even further by 2021, there are many who are both excited and concerned with the idea of stores being completely contactless. With the reported cost of hardware alone for the first AmazonGo store in Seattle reaching over $1m, it may take a while before these stores become profitable – but their eventual success is virtually assured.
Despite promising momentum, there are public concerns about Amazon Go, not least of which is the absence of employees detracting from the social experience of shopping. Another major concern is the instability of their jobs, with one Whole Foods employee telling the Guardian that ‘they want us to be robots’. After all, Amazon is infamous for giving little notice to employees, in addition to dire workplace conditions for warehouse and support staff, so concerns about employee interests are well-substantiated. Conventional outlets have also expressed concern as shares of competitors, such as CVS and Target, have also significantly decreased. It’s apparent that consumers and investors alike are convinced by concept, choosing convenience over local and conventional business.
Love it or hate it, Amazon is changing the way we shop, and a majority of consumers support the idea. Whether you’re a hungover uni student or an on-the-go businessperson, this is yet another service that will gain immense popularity in the following years, and another arm of Amazon’s seemingly endless market share.