Amazon Go: Taking grocery shopping to the next level

Amazon’s answer to groceries – Amazon Go – was launched in the company’s hometown of Seattle recently. It plans to open up 2,000 of its stores over the next decade, with Australia hot on the radar for one of its next destinations.

Amazon has a huge reach across the world – with revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars – and it is set to take on a US grocery market worth over $1 trillion Australian dollars. And what’s more is Amazon has its eyes set on Australia and its large grocery market.

If you’re stuck in the grocery line wondering if there’s a better way, then there is. It comes in the form of online grocery shopping, but even this has its setbacks. You usually have to pay extra for delivery, and the most popular times – right after 3pm – are usually booked out and you have to schedule Mr Delivery Man to come at some odd hour. Amazon Go has a plan to deliver the best of both worlds – everything you want in a grocery shopping experience, and none of the bad stuff.

How does Amazon Go work?

Amazon Go works by way of the app in your smartphone. Amazon Go’s grocery store is supposed to be like any other grocery store, except the whole checkout process is taken away.

  • As you enter the store, you scan your smartphone at the door
  • The ‘walk out’ technology detects when products are taken by the shopper (or put back)
  • This creates a virtual cart on your Amazon account that mirrors your real shopping trolley
  • Then like any other online purchase, it charges your online account
  • You walk out laughing at how tedious the checkout process used to be

The best feature is that it all works through your smartphone. It can be nerve-wracking to think about how Amazon knows you’re buying what you’re buying, and it could be tough to not feel like you’re stealing. All you need to do is relax, however. Amazon technology takes care of the nitty gritty stuff, and you just need your smartphone handy – you know the thing you’re probably holding already. Apart from that, just shop as normal!

How does Amazon Go compare to Coles and Woolworths?

Amazon Go is unlike anything Australia – and indeed the world – has experienced before. In Coles’ and Woolies’ current states, Amazon Go resembles almost nothing like it apart from the food it holds. In fact, Amazon itself has stated that it better resembles other unmanned technology that is popular today.

“Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” Amazon Go’s FAQ page says.

So to describe Amazon Go, think of it like the best mix of a physical visit to the grocery shop, and shopping online. Each way of buying groceries obviously has its setbacks, but Amazon Go looks to remove much of these negatives and only have the good bits.

Is Amazon Go a good idea?

Amazon Go may seem like the biggest thing to hit groceries since sliced bread. Here are some potential pros and cons.

Pros Cons
Timesaving Early stages likely mean some kinks will need to be ironed out
No checkout process Could go the way of self-checkouts with shoplifting worries and tech malfunctions
Less human involvement and human error Amazon Go might not create many frontline jobs e.g. checkout staff
Potentially cheaper due to less staff Worries of automation ‘stealing jobs’

These are the main benefits and drawbacks that are apparent at this stage. There is much to be seen about Amazon Go and how it will fare in practice. It’s all theory at this point. Currently there is only one store open – in Seattle – and it’s only in beta for Amazon employees. Full store rollout to the public will begin in 2017, but it remains to be seen when it could come to Australia.

Taking on Coles and Woolies – and Aldi – is going to be a mighty task. If anyone is going to do it, it might as well be Amazon. If you’re struggling to see how Amazon Go works, it can be best to compare it to traditional grocery stores and online grocery shopping.

The key differences with Amazon Go and traditional grocery shopping are:

  • No checkouts
  • No payment system i.e. fumbling around for your wallet
  • No bagging of groceries, just plonk them straight in your trolley or own bags as you go
  • Potentially timesaving due to no backlogs at the checkout with loading grocery bags and paying

So you’re probably bemoaning the fact with Amazon Go you have to put pants on to head out to the physical grocery shop, but it differs with online groceries by:

  • You still have to physically go out to the store
  • You don’t have to rely on delivery windows
  • You won’t have a sweaty delivery person in your house plonking down your groceries
  • The payment system is still easier – through your smartphone, rather than pulling out a debit/credit card.

Amazon Go is an exciting new addition to the grocery landscape. The idea has the potential to take on Coles and Woolworths at their own game, and Amazon is probably the best vehicle to do it through. After all, the company is worth billions. However, Amazon Go is still in its early stages, and an Australian rollout still looks to be a fair way away. So, the recommendation is to ‘watch this space’.

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