Over the last few years, we’ve grown pretty accustomed to browsing through Amazon for almost everything we need.
Today, the retailer that got its start slinging books is trying to become a big player in the digital grocery store wars. But this week, the company unveiled an entirely new concept in food shopping that may just revolutionize the way we shop in the real world.
On Monday, the company officially opened Amazon Go, its first fully automated brick-and-mortar grocery store, in Seattle. The concept, which was previously tested among Amazon employees, uses various technologies to track purchases digitally, so customers grab items and just go — without ever standing in a checkout line.
In an era where we can order everything from a car to a massage via an app, it’s not surprising that this new grocery store involves an app, too. The Amazon Go app is available for both iOS and Android but how does it work?
When a customer is in the store, every item added to a basket will also be added to a virtual shopping list within the app. The store itself and the shelves are rigged with hundreds of cameras and electronic sensors to identify each customer and track the items they select. Amazon Go is linked to a credit card (of course) so when your shopping trip is done, you just leave the store and the card is automatically charged.
While the concept of walking out without having to get in line to pay right away is appealing — it may feel more like raiding a pantry than shopping — we wonder what it may do to impulse control if there's no immediate cost accountability to in-store purchases.
According to the Amazon Go web portal, the store offers “delicious ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made by our chefs and favorite local kitchens and bakeries,” as well as a selection of grocery essentials that range from "staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates." Taking aim at Blue Apron, the company is also offering chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits, with all the ingredients you need to make a meal for two in about 30 minutes.
Unlike Whole Foods and most grocery stores, Amazon Go does accept food stamps, which makes the store inaccessible to thousands of Seattle families — including those who do not have access to a cell phone.
While there are no plans as of yet to integrate this concept into Whole Foods, which Amazon recently acquired (or to open other Amazon Go locations beyond Seattle at this time), this futuristic store is already disrupting the way people are just thinking about buying food.
However, some people onsite at the store's opening noted, with some irony, that while the store itself may be free of annoying checkout lines, a lot of people were waiting a long time to simply get in to the store to buy food.
Of course, if you don't live in Seattle, there are still hundreds of Whole Foods products you can get shipped right to your door — and you definitely won't have to wait in a line.