An Industry Insider’s Take on Amazon Go
NATIONAL REPORT — Amazon continues to receive press about its unique Amazon Go concept and technology-driven design, and many people are visiting just to experience what shopping there is like — which is exactly what Kevin Struthers, senior consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group, and his colleagues did recently at one of the Chicago locations.
There are currently 10 Amazon Go locations open in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco. The cashierless store concept debuted in December 2016. The e-commerce giant is looking to possibly open as many as 3,000 Amazon Go locations over the next few years, with as many as 50 locations in major metropolitan areas by the end of 2019, according to recent news reports.
“We wanted to go and experience it, and the store was incredibly well designed,” Struthers told Convenience Store News. “Product placement was very clear and because nobody is locked down behind a cash register to check out customers, they are constantly stocking shelves so the presentation is very good.”
The ceiling is filled with electronic devices and cameras — all painted black. Cameras are also placed where the aisles connect and in the walls.
The shelving is much higher than a typical convenience store, and customers need to go through a vestibule similar to entering a bank in order to get into the store, according to Struthers.
“There is a lobby area where you are prompted to download the app if you don’t already have it, and you go through glass doors where an employee is waiting to greet you and scan your app so you can go through the turnstile,” he said. “This may be a learning configuration that goes away over time because people need to know they need the app and must be onboarded before they get into the store.”
Since more than 100 million people already have payment data saved in their Amazon accounts, this onboarding process is fairly easy, and there is even a slideshow on the app that gives people directions on how to shop the store, Struthers explained. For example, if you pick up a product and hand it to someone else, you will be charged for it because you are the one who picked it up.
“As a parent, you can bring your child in, but you have to be careful what they pick up,” he noted.
In Struthers’ opinion, the store was clean, not cluttered, and there was “great signage” in terms of shelf-tagging. Because of the tracking devices, the shelves have guides on them “like bumper rails at a bowling alley,” so everything stays neatly aligned, he observed.
With Amazon possibly opening up to 3,000 Amazon Go locations in the next couple of years, Struthers said c-store operators should be looking carefully at their own locations to determine how they can stand out and uncover opportunities to create more of an experience inside the store.
Although it’s likely Amazon Go stores will be opening in urban markets to take advantage of foot traffic, it will still have an effect on the entire industry because of the “expectation transfer,” he cautioned.
“The risk to the c-store industry is expectation transfer. After someone experiences the Amazon Go environment and then goes into an ordinary c-store, they will be looking for more of an experience,” Struthers said. “There is a challenge for c-stores and major oil brands to be able to offer some type of digital experience. Without it, people will be more dissatisfied as time goes on.”
W. Capra Consulting Group is a retail technology, payments and strategic implementation firm.
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