Amazon Go! Let’s Go or No Go?
You’re doing your weekly big shop, you’ve been walking up and down isles for an hour. Other people’s little darlings are squalling, and Nigella’s Chilli Jam recipe called for Scotch Bonnets, you’ve given up looking for those. Happily, there’s a 2 for 1 on Yellow Tail, you head toward the check out, the queues are enormous and moving at a snail’s pace. You end up behind the student that wants to pay half cash half card, the extreme couponer, and the high school frenemy of the checkout girl. They’ve not seen each other for ages, and simply must take the opportunity to catch up.
Now imagine a world where you could just walk into a supermarket, grab, bag, and go. No endless lines, no debit cards, no checkout, no inane chatter, no hanging around. Imagine that, and what you’ve got is Amazon Go.
Amazon have combined technology with simplicity, to create what some think will be the shopping experience of the future. Amazon Go is a cashier-less bricks and mortar store. Its fully automated, and uses tech Amazon have christened, ‘Just Walk Out’. Amazon Go’s ‘Just Walk Out’ tech utilises deep learning algorithms, sensor fusion, and computer vision, a kind of tech smorgasbord of cameras and sensors.
Amazon Go quite literally is a convenience store. The first of its type, its housed in Amazons Day 1 building in Seattle. After ironing out a fair few tech issues in the beta stages, issues that caused a year long delay, Amazon Go finally opened its doors to the masses in January 2018. The first of Amazon Go’s customers have let us know entering the store is akin to entering a tube station. You’re greeted by a series of automated gates, which will only allow you in if you have the Amazon Go smart phone app. Another oddity, there’s not a basket or trolley in sight. Amazon Go’s ‘Just Walk Out’ tech, tracks everything you take or return to the shelf, you simply place your items into an Amazon Go bag, and off you trot. The only customer complaints so far, some customers leave Amazon Go worried they’ve developed sticky fingers.
So, is Amazon Go the future or another tech fad? Well lets weigh up the pros and cons. We already know its convenient, efficient, and far less expensive for Amazon. If they no longer have cashiers to pay, and decide to pass those savings on to their customers, you could end up paying less for your goods.
Cons, while the items you grab are on display, be aware, you're on display too. The in-store tech will gather and harvest your data. If privacy is a concern for you, then so is 'Just Walk Out' tech. Amazons innovative tech will transform and tailor your shopping experience, probably leaving you no choice but to purchase 2 more bottles of Yellow Tail.
Job losses! Stats taken from the United States Department of Labour, show that as of May 2016, over 3.5 million Americans were employed as cashiers, with 900,000 of that number working in grocery stores. If Amazon Go's 'Just Walk Out' tech became the norm, 900,000 people would risk being made redundant.
There’s no doubt Amazon Go will at some point change the retail landscape, begging the question, how will other retailers compete? Wayne Townsend, president of marketing agency Epsilon said, “In the transforming retail environment, there is an immediate opportunity for other retailers and brands to fuse data, technology, and geo-fencing content to engage [a] loyalty program (their best customers) with geo-location reminders to incentivise store visits and real-time offers via mobile push notifications when consumers are in-store”.
There are rumblings on the tech vine, that an Amazon Go store could be in the UK by the end of 2018, we’re not so sure. The tech used to make Amazon Go possible, is as with most new tech prohibitively expensive. We can’t see other major retailers falling over themselves to get this tech just yet, the retrofit costs alone would be astronomical. All in all, Amazon Go may well be the future, but that future is not immediate.
Now, you may not have the foggiest what geo-fencing is. No idea what deep learning, computer vision, or sensor fusion is or does, see below.
Geo-fencing: When all attempts at level headed communication with your Italian neighbour Geo have broken down, and you are forced to unsheathe your épée!
Computer Vision: Please refer to David Bowies Sound and Vision.
Deep Learning: Taking the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins to the other end of the pool.
Sensor Fusion: Something Megatron did to Optimus Prime, no one really talks about it, but it explains the animosity.
Written by George-Carter Cunningham