Amazon wants to make your life easier. Here’s how it’s changing grocery shopping

The company announced Tuesday that will introduce what it calls Just Walk Out technology — which allows customers to pay for their groceries without waiting in line for a cashier — at its newest Amazon Fresh store. That store is set to open June 17 in Bellevue, Washington. (Customers are not obliged to use it, and can still check out the old-fashioned way.)

Amazon (AMZN) wants to showcase the software’s “continued ability to scale and adapt to new environments and selection,” said Dilip Kumar, the company’s vice president of Physical Retail and Technology, in a statement.
As they enter the new Fresh store’s entrance, customers who want to use the Just Walk Out option will be prompted to scan a QR code from their Amazon app, scan their palm or insert the payment card linked to their Amazon account. Anyone with an Amazon account can use the technology.

Some analysts see this as a play for Amazon to increase Prime membership and keep customers coming back.

Until this week, the cashier-less option was implemented only at the company’s smaller convenience stores, Amazon Go and Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Fresh stores in the UK and third-party retailers. Implementation at the new Fresh store, which is 25,000 square feet, marks the first time the technology will be used in a full-size grocery store.
The average supermarket was 42,415 square feet as of 2019, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

According to Amazon’s website, there are 22 Amazon Go locations in the United States and a single Amazon Go Grocery in Seattle.

The new Fresh store, its 14th location in the United States, marks one of Amazon’s latest forays into the grocery industry. Whole Foods, Amazon’s organic grocery chain, targets a wealthier clientele, and its smaller Go and Go Grocery stores have limited offerings. The Fresh stores, however, are targeted at lower- and middle-income customers and function as full-sized grocery stores.

While Amazon is ahead of other grocery retailers in developing and implementing cashierless technology, it remains to be seen if its smart shopping options are viable for larger stores, especially after earlier technologies had lackluster results.

Amazon has introduced other smart shopping technologies in recent years, although the Dash Cart — which allows shoppers to scan groceries, link to online shopping lists and check out their groceries — will not be available at the new Fresh store. Customers can use Amazon One, the palm scan, when they opt in to Just Walk Out.

David Bishop, a partner at consulting firm Brick Meets Click, notes that “the level of engagement that they’re getting with the Dash Cart is far lower than it should be if it was based on the percentage of prime members shopping inside their store.” Customers don’t perceive that the benefits are “enough to justify or motivate the customer to use it,” he added.

The company’s cashierless technology relies on computer vision, sensors, and deep learning to monitor what goes in and out of customers’ carts. It can tell when an item leaves the shelf and is placed into a customer’s cart, or if it’s replaced on the shelf if the customer changes their mind.

When a customer finishes shopping, they can just walk out of the store with their purchases, and the app automatically charges the selected payment method and sends customers their bill.

You can now get Amazon groceries delivered inside your garage

In addition to saving shoppers time, Amazon wants to minimize customer contact within the stores, Kumar said in the statement. Just Walk Out allows customers to shop and checkout without interacting with anyone.

Correction: This story previously misstated which Amazon customers can use the technology.

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