If you’re not aware of what Amazon Go is, it is Amazon’s concept for convenience stores with a checkout-free shopping experience. They use “Just walk out” technology where you simply use the Amazon app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout.
Amazon Go is expanding. After a beta store in their Seattle HQ in late 2016, they opened the store to the public in January 2018 followed swiftly by another dozen. Reportedly, they are eyeing to open 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021, focusing on airports and college campuses, and expanding the concept to London.
In some of the online reviews, people claim that they have managed to do the entire shopping experience, from entering the store, grabbing a croissant, and leaving the store without ‘physically’ paying for it, in 17 seconds. Isn’t that literally a ‘shoplifting experience’? But of course, in a legal way. At least there’s a definite feeling that you could be stealing by “just walking out” – is security going to come and stop you? Are you being overcharged? Are you going to be undercharged? I can’t imagine how convenient and scalable it could be unless I experience one myself here in Singapore, hopefully soon.
With Amazon being involved in books, groceries, video content, electronics, and manufacturing devices as well, this puts Amazon in a position to be a one-stop shop for shopping behavior data from online to offline and offline to online. What content or ads people are consuming online, what they search for, and how they’re making their choices of products from the options available to them. Marketers will have access to much richer shopper data compared to what other agencies like Nielsen retail, or Kantar’s Worldpanel offer.
The digitalization of this data, which was never available to marketers at this scale, can help them measure the complete ROI of their marketing investment leading to actual purchase. With other players like Tesco, 7-Eleven, Kroger and Walmart’s Sam’s Club introducing their own checkout-free scan-and-go services, it appears Amazon Go’s “Just Walk Out Shopping” technology has taken the convenience store experience up several notches. But they are also leading the industry where marketers should be able to make real-time assessments of their marketing investment, rather than traditional ways of waiting for 6 months or a year to see spikes or drop in sales figures to measure the returns.
However, the scalability or acceptability of such technology is yet to be tested at scale. Amazon just has about 13 stores so far, while other players are still experimenting. How consumers from different countries will react or exploit such technology, especially in developing countries, also remains to be seen. Amazon is definitely saving on staff costs, but shoplifting (due to tech errors) may still be a possibility. However, shoplifting is also a problem in traditional stores so it will be interesting if such technology can actually help them to reduce their gross losses with billing accuracy and against saving on staff costs.