As I walked around in Canary Wharf on a pleasant Saturday evening with my husband, what I saw was really exciting – all-new Walk Out store by Amazon Fresh – the cashier less technology-enabled grocery stores. We decided to check it out instantly.
As we entered the store, we were asked to scan a QR code at the automated gate. The QR code is available in the Amazon app. We had a look around the store, picked the items we needed, put them in a bag, and just walked out, without any interaction with the staff. There were no payment tills in the store and very limited staff just for stock replenishment. It’s that simple. The payment got deducted from the card linked to our Amazon account within few minutes of us walking out of the store with a receipt emailed to us. There is no requirement of an Amazon Prime subscription to do such purchases in the store. Along with the basic grocery items, hot on-the-go food and ready-to-eat meals are available as well to pick up.
The only prerequisite before going there is an app on a smartphone with payment details filled in because the software verifies customers’ identity as well as the payment modes available in the account through the QR code.
This is the 3rd store that opened in London in March 2021 after over 30 stores opened in the USA already. The ones in London are under the Fresh branding whereas in the USA there are Amazon Go as well as Amazon Fresh stores.
Other Retailers working on Contactless technology
A few months back Sainsbury’s, one of the largest supermarkets chain in the UK introduced this concept using their “SmartShop” app. The customer can buy products and scan the product barcodes in the app, bag it and make the payment through the app checkout feature itself without standing in the queues for payment tills. Just like any online shopping app. Similarly, Marks and Spencer’s grocery stores in the UK have also implemented the scan, pay, and go model.
What gives Amazon an edge over others?
Amazon has gone one step further. Here the customer doesn’t need to scan the bar code of the item in an app. On enquiring about the working of the store, we got to know that there is a network of cameras and sensors installed monitoring every pick from the aisle. It is powered by deep learning artificial intelligence techniques. Later you can just walk out of the store and what’s even more surprising is that they even recorded our trip time in the store which is the total time we spent.
With so much of advancement coming up in the retail atmosphere, there are definitely some pros and cons attached that we can see below –
- This technology is a great way of making contactless payments especially in current times of COVID-19.
- Convenient technology especially to avoid queues on weekdays when people are juggling between home and work.
- Overhead costs are reduced for the supermarkets because there are no tills and lesser staff required to manage.
- Enhanced security is one of the top advantages. This technology for sure can reduce or even eradicate the chance of shoplifting and similar crimes.
- Customers are a little skeptical about picking up things on the aisles due to fear of sensors recording them and adding it to their cart even if it is for just something as basic as checking ingredients.
- It is only feasible for chain stores and not standalone stores that do not have so much investment, especially if this becomes a norm.
- A large chunk of personal data is being stored by Amazon which can hamper the privacy of the customers.
With the lockdown in a lot of places, there is still a very small number of customers accessing the stores. The question is whether will Amazon will be able to handle huge crowds as the restrictions ease out. Although there are no cashiers and tills in these stores, there is still a limited amount of staff operating to carry out various functions like that refilling the stock and attending to the customers new to this technology. During early adoption, there is always some need for some assistance.
Nevertheless, it is an innovative shopping experience for sure and to visit use every now and then. Wishing for new stores to open up nearby.