Amazon Go Has the Potential to Change How Customers Think About Automation

The store may be more than just hype, after all

Amazon Go opened in Seattle on January 22.
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Amazon Go, a convenience store where there’s no need to stand in a checkout line, sounds like something out of a millennial dream.

But it’s now a reality, and it finally opened its doors today in Seattle, Wash., a year later than expected. And while retailers and grocers don’t need to start panicking, one industry analyst says you should be paying attention to how Amazon Go is likely to change consumer expectations.

To buy something from the store, you need to download the Amazon Go app, which is available on both iOS and Android, and have an Amazon account. Once you get to the store, just open the app to enter and you’re good to go—seriously. The Amazon Go store uses a series of cameras and an algorithm to track every item you pick up from the shelves (and eventually walk out with) and charge you for it.

The layout of the store is why Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester Research Inc, believes grocers don’t need to worry about Amazon Go becoming a direct competitor. It isn’t necessarily set up like a grocery store. Instead, it has quick breakfast, lunch and dinner items as well as a few “staples” like bread and milk. You can also purchase an Amazon Meal Kit from the store. However, Kodali does think the industry needs to consider what Amazon’s ultimate goal might be.

“This has the potential to change shopper expectations on how fast a transaction can go,” Kodali said. “They’ve basically taken that process of the checkout and completely automated it. It’s beyond self checkout and scan and go.”

Before any store completely automates the checkout process, Kodali warns, retailers should think about whether “there are elements of friction in [the store] experience that [retailers] can learn from and improve for [their] shoppers.”

Retailers can also learn from one potential problem recently reported by Slate about Amazon Go—it doesn’t take food stamps. The company has made some recent gains in becoming more inclusive toward lower-income markets, including participating in a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in three states as well as discounting the price of a monthly Prime membership for people with a Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

And Kodali thinks food stamps could be on the store’s future road map of new features.

“I don’t get a sense that they’re this elitist, classist institution,” Kodali said.

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