For decades, customer surveys have shown that the number one complain among American shoppers is their disdain for waiting in lines.
Successful businesses like Starbucks are especially vulnerable to these complaints because their customer traffic is erratic and most of their products are labor intensive. Major grocery chains have had self-service check out available for years with really little effect on the overall wait period.
What do shoppers want? Ideally, they want to go into a store, shop, pay for the items without a cashier or service of lines and leave.
As whimsical as this fantasy might be, a grocery store will open in Seattle in January of 2017 with this very plan in effect. And who better to bring this dream to reality than one of the most the most innovative company around, Amazon.
The internet giant has been testing their Amazon Go concept for several months after more than four years on the drawing board. The Seattle store, currently used only by Amazon employees in a test run, will let customers walk into the store, tap their cellphone on a turnstile, select food from the shelves, tap their phone again when finished shopping and simply walk out.
The initial phone tap logs them into the store’s network and connects to their Amazon account through an app. The Amazon Go system uses machine learning, sensors and artificial intelligence to track items as customers pick up then up and add to their cart or bag, These items are then added to the virtual call on their app one by one. If the customer changes their mind and puts an item back, the system removes them from the customer’s cart.
When the customer is ready to leave, the app adds up everything the customer has in their bag and immediately charges their Amazon account.
The Amazon Go store is located 2131 7th Ave. near Amazon’s main Seattle offices. So far, the system seems to be working well enough that Amazon Go will open their doors to the public in early 2017.
The store will also feature meal kits, or complete meals-in-a-box that have become popular internet items over the past year. But rather than wait for delivery from an Amazon service center to your home, the shopper will be able to buy the same convenience that these meals offer fresh off the shelf.
The Amazon Go store will stock chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits, complete with all the ingredients you need to make a meal for two in about 30 minutes packed in one box.
Ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner meals and snacks made fresh every day by on-site chefs, favorite local kitchens and bakeries will also be available. Basic grocery essentials ranging bread and milk and eggs will be stocked as well as artisan cheeses and locally made desserts.
What this type of store could do eventually to the unemployment rate is not known. People employees will still be needed to stock and maintain retail stores. However, at the rapid rate that artificial intelligence and robotics technology is advancing, even those jobs may be in jeopardy at some future date.
For the time being, the Seattle Amazon Go store will be under intense scrutiny by the public and the retail industry. Whether this unique experiment succeeds, only time will tell.