Amazon Fresh: Checkout-less Shopping
This article is a continuation of my YouTube video: "Amazon Fresh-The Future of Shopping??".
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As mass consumers, we always want things to give us instant gratification. 🕒
Waiting has become too hard for us as the years have gone on.
This has a direct correlation to our shopping habits.
Physical retail has hit a dip since the invention of online retail and more recently the Coronavirus pandemic.
One of the front runners in online retail is: Amazon. 🛒
From technology to teapots they sell pretty much everything.
They are supplementing their profit margins by bravely stepping out onto the high-street. Whereas traditional retailers are trying to move their storefronts online, Amazon are doing the opposite.
Amazon Fresh stores are slowly popping up throughout the UK and just like its American counterpart, Amazon Go, it brings a new way of shopping. Amazon is calling this: “Just Walk Out” technology. Essentially, there are no checkouts. You just put items in your bag and then just… leave.
It’s similar to what Sainsbury’s have tried to implement in some of their stores with the SmartShop app, however Amazon’s execution of the idea is much more polished.
A new Amazon Fresh store has just opened up near me, so I thought that I’d take a look.
On arrival, you are greeted with barriers that can only be opened using a Fresh QR code located in your Amazon app. Don’t worry if you’re not technologically advanced. There are Amazon staff on hand to guide you through the process.
Once in, the store looks just like an ordinary shop.
Albeit, smaller than your average supermarket. Amazon is modelling their store sizes off typical convenience stores, so you won’t find a great variety of items, but they do stock most of the essentials. Usually branded as "by Amazon".
So you may be wondering, how does Amazon know what you’ve bought without a checkout system?
Well, these stores are very technologically advanced. Instead of SmartShop’s laborious way of making the customer scan each item, Amazon uses pressure weight sensors, camera tracking and the latest AI technology to do this for you.
The shelves know when you’ve picked something up, and crucially when you’ve put it back down. The black-boxed cameras on the ceiling are tracking every move you make and are specifically designed to register what product you are holding in your hand and putting into your bag.
These processes all work together seamlessly to provide the “Just Walk Out” Amazon experience.
And how well does it work? In my experience, pretty well, but it will inevitably go wrong for some people’s shopping trips. When leaving the store, Amazon had emailed me an invoice with all the items I had bought.
So here's the receipt. As you can see it's not the most affordable shop, but similar to what you would find in local convenience stores.
Amazon's technology is so advanced that it also timed my shop. Eight minutes and twelve seconds, quite brisk compared to other supermarkets.
There is a problem with this though. It's hard to track your spending whilst you're still in the store. Of course the prices are on the shelf, but if you're in a normal store, the checkout acts as the last point of deciding whether or not you want to buy the item. Or what if you've gone over your intended budget and want to put an item back. Amazon's Fresh store system would mean that if you didn't want an item, you would have to go back to the store to return. That's not very convenient is it?
From what I can tell, the food quality seems to be on par with your Tescos and Sainsbury's. It's not quite Waitrose and M&S level, but still enjoyable. Amazon's version of the UK meal deal is comparable to Tesco's offering, but unlike Tesco its meal deals are not the fixed £3 price we all know and love. Amazon takes the main item (sandwich, wrap etc.) and then if you wish to add a snack (crisps or fruit) and a drink, it adds on £1 to the main item's price. In my case, I bought a Chicken Triple Sandwich for £2.75. I then added Tyrrells Cheddar & Chive Crisps and a bottle of water for an extra £1. Making this particular meal deal cost £3.75 (prices will vary depending on the cost of your main item).
So is this the way we will shop in the future? Time will only tell. I think that there will be a hybrid of conventional shopping and this type of shopping experience. However, it won't be as quick as the move to online shopping, which is still growing year on year. There are pros and cons to the Amazon Fresh experience such as: accessibility to those who may not be an existing Amazon customer, or those who don't own a form of payment other than cash.
To these parts of the market, Amazon's experience will be more a hinderance, than a convenient way to shop.