Although humans across the world seem to disagree on thousands of topics, there is one thing that unites us all on common ground: we all hate waiting in line. It’s boring, tiresome, and makes us feel like our lives are being wasted. If there’s one company to decide that lines are for losers, then it’s Amazon. Earlier this year, the online shopping juggernaut opened a brick-and-mortar supermarket for the first time, albeit with a slight twist.
Called Amazon Go, the store in Seattle requires you to scan the official app at the barriers before entering the premises, and once inside, dozens of cameras and highly sophisticated sensor technology tracks what items shoppers are taking off the shelves. Once you take something, it’s automatically added to your grocery bill, but should you have second thoughts and place it back, the item is removed from your virtual basket. Then, you simply walk out of the store and whatever you’ve taken is charged to your credit or debit card linked to your Amazon account.
The groceries are not exactly different to what you’d find in any other supermarket in the US – you’ll find salads, milk, and pastries like normal – the main selling point for Amazon Go is simply the lack of cashiers. Although there have been reports of long lines to actually get into the store (it’s no bigger than your average 7-Eleven), the time-saving aspect is simply the ability to waltz in, pick up an item, and breeze out without any human interaction whatsoever. There are some employees either preparing fresh food or assisting with any inquiries, but you’re certainly not required to talk to anyone – such is life in 2018.
Amazon Go has clearly been a hit in the flagship store, and as a result, as many as six new supermarkets have been announced, with some more in Seattle and a few in Los Angeles heavily rumored to be the new locations. Unsurprisingly, however, there has been heavy backlash as to what could happen to the more than 3.5 million cashiers currently employed across America should this technology find its way to other supermarkets, but Amazon has assured the public that a human presence is still needed, albeit in different forms, such as food preparation, shelve stacking, ID checking, and help with finding items. We all know that certain things simply become obsolete at one point, and that’s something the world may have to deal with in the future.
Self-checkout zones are already in implementation in many supermarkets across the world, so the fact that Amazon Go has simply taken the idea up a notch is not something we should be too shocked about. Whether this ‘Just Walk Out’ technology (a phrase coined by Amazon) could one day be shifted to other industries, like clothing stores, remains to be seen at this point, but it marks an interesting shift back towards brick-and-mortar shopping. There’s no doubt that today’s ecommerce software has provided many enterprising people with the means to launch their own online boutique, but it remains an interesting debate as to whether Amazon Go’s idea will make shoppers excited about an in-store experience all over again.