Amazon has started to get serious. With the official opening of its first large supermarket in Seattle, the US company has decided to enter the world of large retailers with a tense leg, with a concept of “smart shopping” that had already been introduced with the opening of the first Amazon Go.
The project seems to have passed the embryonic phase and the new opening, with a store of almost a thousand square meters, certifies the maturity of a technology ready to work perfectly even in large contexts, supermarkets where everyone can buy what they want. Amazon Go Grocery, this is the name of the new store, will it be only the first of a long series of new openings in the United States and in the world?
The new opening
The February 24 last was the inauguration date of the new Amazon Go Grocery in Seattle. It is a supermarket in all respects, very different from the 25 Amazon Go stores already present in the United States: it has in fact gone from stores always between 100 and 120 square meters to a room the size of 996 square meters, a large supermarket where you will find any type of product and which, in the company’s objectives, aims to offer the customer a service in which to make a large and complete shopping in complete comfort and speed.
The basic principle is the same as the other small Amazon Go, but compared to a much larger scale: customers will be able to buy their products independently, without the need to stop at the checkout to pay; once your shopping is over, you can leave the store with your items, without any type of control by the staff.
Amazon employees will be present, but they will take care of the supply of goods and customer support, nothing more. Users will only need a smartphone, an Amazon account and a special app: the powerful technology studied in recent years by the company will take care of everything else.
Cutting edge technology
The various openings of the past two years and the tests carried out on their employees have served Amazon to make the big step of the Seattle Grocery. The technology inside is the same as the smaller stores in between cameras, sensors, readers of various kinds, but with some precautions to be able to trace more precisely the collection of products that are difficult to identify such as loose ones. Artificial intelligence and advanced technologies of computer vision they will do the rest: the user will be artificially followed by the cameras for the duration of his tour and it will be precisely these technologies that understand exactly what he took, what he put in the cart and what he put back on the shelf.
The user just needs to open the app to register his access. Then the mobile phone can be put back in its place and the user can shop as he wishes. When you leave the store in peace, you will then see all the items taken in your account and see your receipt on the app. No checks at the exit, no passage to the cashiers to pay, all in total autonomy.
A real supermarket
The technological concept, already in itself avant-garde, is even more surprising when compared to the size of the new premises and the variety of what this Grocery offers. The quantity and quality of the products offered will be out of scale compared to what Amazon has accustomed us so far: you can buy everything that is usually found in large supermarkets including meat, fish, ready meals, fresh fruit and vegetables and organic products. A variety that will essentially allow everyone to shop as varied and complete as possible.
Suppliers will be the same as in the market chain Whole Foods, purchased by Amazon three years ago precisely in anticipation of this great step in the world of large retailers. What Bezos and partners wanted to achieve is a goal unthinkable until recently: allowing families to make a full expense in total autonomy and with the same products found in traditional supermarkets, something that in the smaller Amazon Go was impossible due to the total absence of food and fresh products. Inside there is also an alcohol section, accessible only to adults, and a wide assortment of the most important brands, offered at prices that seem competitive and able to keep up with those offered by other chains, but with the added convenience to do everything with maximum autonomy and speed.
Cameras and sensors
At the level of habits the user will have to behave as he always does inside a big one supermarket, but entering into the perspective that its path and all its movements will be tracked with absolute accuracy and with an impressive number of cameras. It is a fundamental condition for everything to work perfectly. The products taken from the shelves are identified by sensors of weight, whose detections are then coupled with the videos taken by the cameras and brought back to the user account, activated with the login via app made at the entrance.
The information is processed and the artificial intelligence, in total autonomy, manages to associate the user with all the products he has picked up and put in his bag. A few minutes after the exit, purchases are charged and the receipt loaded on your application. Apparently it is impossible to deceive the system given the presence of weight sensors that automatically understand when a product has been taken and, vice versa, when it is put back in place.
The system also automatically understands when a customer changes their mind and puts the purchase back in its place. Mistakes should be reduced to zero. The stress test carried out in recent years have shown how much mistakes do not seem contemplated by the system, therefore personal exchanges are impossible, even when dealing with many customers present at the same time or with people of similar appearance or build.
What are the next steps for Amazon? The street of the small Go stores and the Grocery store in Seattle foreshadow big investments for the future. Already some time ago there was talk of Amazon’s intention to open small stores also in Europe, with London likely candidate to host the first on the list. The absence of payment boxes will allow the company to open smaller stores but still full of goods, not huge like the thousand square meters of the Seattle store but not even as small as those of 100 square meters in the United States; we speak of medium-sized rooms, included between 400 and 500 square meters.
The variations to the basic formula can be numerous: in a New York store, in fact, Amazon offers the possibility to also pay in cash inside, an additional option that allows even those who do not have an account to make purchases. Hence a series of infinite possibilities and combinations that will lead in the not too distant future to other openings and to a more than probable future presence also in airports or shopping centers.
The “final” goal of the company is to expand its business by applying its technologies to traditional purchasing methods. Occupying physical space and creating real activities is a clear sign of one strategy which will see Amazon enter direct competition with physical stores and large retail chains, trying in its own way to revolutionize a sector that would be given a not inconsiderable competitive shock, capable of changing it as Amazon itself managed to do with the world of e-commerce.
If Amazon Go proves to be a success, all the other companies should start straightening the antennas: the elements for the project to work are all there. For now we are still in experimental phase, but compared to the small shops we were used to, the birth of a store of this size brings the challenge to a higher level, showing that the company, if it was not understood, is starting to get serious.