Two years ago, Amazon opened its first cashless Go convenience store, and in the time since, Amazon Go stores have expanded to 24 other locations throughout the U.S. But now, Amazon is trying to take its cashless stores big time with the official launch of its first Amazon Go Grocery store.
Situated on the edge of downtown Seattle in a space that takes up 966 square metres (with 715 square metres of dedicated shopping space), the new Amazon Go Grocery dwarfs all of Amazon’s previous cashless stores which ranged from as small as 40 square metres to just over 185 square metres. However, it seems size wasn’t Amazon’s biggest challenge when making its first cashless grocery store, but rather the number, and more importantly the variety of items available for sale.
That’s because unlike a typical Amazon Go store which functions more like a typical bodega or convenience store and stocks mostly pre-packaged goods like chips and bottled drinks, Amazon’s Go Grocery needs to accurately track the purchase of foods that are trickier to track like fresh produce, no matter how many lemons or heirloom tomatoes you pick up and inspect before actually putting one in your cart.
To that end, like other Go stores, the Go Grocery still has people swipe in by the entrance of the store using their phone, while a vast array of camera and sensors installed in the ceiling of the store tracks what you grab, but there’s some extra tweaking involved that allows people to pick out the best produce and put certain items back (potentially in a slightly different spot than it was picked up) without inaccurately adding something to someone’s tab. All told, Amazon says its Go Grocery store contains 5,000 unique items, comprised of a mix of major brand name items, organic produce, and other staples, with many sourced from Amazon’s subsidiary Whole Foods.
Amazon vice president Dilip Kumar spoke to Geekwire and said the company wanted to make sure shoppers were greeted by “produce laid out in [a traditional] way,” but there are some important differences between Amazon’s cashless variant and a regular grocery store.
Because the Go Grocery doesn’t have any on-site food preparation services like a butcher shop or bakery, foods like fresh fish, meat, and confections are packaged individually and delivered to the store every couple days. Same goes for the fancy cheese section which doesn’t have a cheesemonger to help you decide if you’re better off with a fontina or a brie for your next mac and cheese.
One of the few spots in the store where you can actually expect a human presence though is the alcohol section, where an Amazon employee will be waiting to check IDs before allowing people to buy booze. In the front of the store, there are additional self-service stations for things like coffee and bagels, along with a selection of pre-prepared meals.
Finally, when you’re done shopping, just like at other Amazon Go locations, you can simply walk out of the store with your groceries without ever reaching for your wallet.
Looking forward, while the main goal for Go Grocery is to carry over Amazon’s speedier, more frictionless shopping experience to everyday food shopping, it’s clear Amazon has bigger ideas for the Go model in the future. While speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Kumar said that in the process of making the Go Grocery, Amazon “learned a lot” and that there’s “no real upper bound. [The store] could be five times as big. It could be 10 times as big.”
However, while that might suggest Amazon has plans to create huge wholesale Go stores to compete with outlets like Costco or Sam’s Club, there’s currently no official timetable for expanding Go Grocery to additional locations. Right now, Go Grocery was mostly designed as a tech showcase intended to entice other major retailers to adopt or purchase Amazon’s tech for use in their own stores.
But based on the rate at which the original Amazon Go stores expanded into cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see more Go Grocery locations pop up in major metro areas soon.