By Meade Spotts
Amazon; a name recognized by its 300 million customers in over 170 countries worldwide, provides services ranging from cloud storage to line-free grocery shopping, along with just about every product you can think of. The 19.1 billion dollar giant continues to break the constructs of 21st century shopping, especially with their newest endeavor, Amazon Go stores.
First launched in 1995 by founder Jeff Bezos, Amazon was originally an online book store. But Bezos had a larger vision for his company, all inspired by this quote: “When you’re 80, you want to minimize the number of regrets you have in your life… I think a lot of people live their lives this way. Very few are nerdy and dorky enough to call it a ‘regret minimization framework,’ but that is what I came up with.”
His vision was to become an e-commerce giant. Amazon expanded into DVDs, CDs, and other items that had no variability in what you paid for and what you got. Amazon proceed to buy Alexa in 1999, a huge company that traces and predicts users’ browsing habits; Audible in 2008, a company that now sells audiobooks under Amazon; Twitch TV in 2014, an online streaming network for gamers; and, more recently, Whole Foods Market in June 2017, an organic grocery store chain.
Amazon Go stores are revolutionary because they allow customers to walk in and out with all of their grocery needs; they call this “Just Walk Out Shopping.” No lines. No cashiers. No time. This whole process is all but human-contact free, with an employee that stands near the alcohol selection to check IDs. You touch nothing but your items, and your every move is caught by cameras and sensors. The mission statement Amazon has given for these Go Stores is a sweeping and ambitious future: “Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)”
Here’s how it works: You need an Amazon account and the Amazon Go app on your phone. To enter the store, you swipe your phone, with the Amazon Go app open, over a scanner to unlock a turnstile type of structure. Upon entering, the store tracks your every move, and each item you pick up. The shelves in the store have tiny sensors, tracking items that are removed, and these work with the cameras in the store to determine which shopper picked up the item. The store keeps track of your items in a virtual shopping cart, and once you are done, you simply walk out. Your account is charged and a receipt is sent.
How could this affect job growth? Like many others, you may be asking yourself what will happen to the potential jobs that come with any regular old grocery store. The hope is that without the need to pay employees, the groceries will be less expensive. The grocery industry in the United States employs around 2.6 million people. If these Go Stores change the grocery market, a great deal of people will become unemployed very quickly. One hope is that with the employees stocking the shelves, and greeting shoppers outside with bags, the job market in this specific industry will not vanish. Stores can find alternate uses for their former employees and maybe even broaden the possibilities for potential jobs.
Should you try one of these stores? Of course, but, if you don’t live in Seattle you may be out of luck. There is currently only one Amazon Go store, Seattle, Washington. The store has been used with Amazon employees and select participants. Only recently, on January 22, was the store opened to the public. So if you are really craving the rush of pocket shopping, it will cost you about $500 just to get there.
Featured image credit: Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times.