Making a bang in the media, Amazon ‘Go’ Stores are a whole new concept in retail, and – according to some – could render the self-checkout pointless.

The premise is straightforward: as you walk into the store, you scan your phone, the store then ‘recognises’ you and uses cameras to track your movements as you browse and shop. Everything else is like a normal store on the surface; it’s what lies beneath that makes the Go Store special.

When an item is picked up, sensors not only make the store’s systems aware of it, they become aware of who picked up the item and where they’re going. Machine learning and complex communication between the cameras and sensors track the item, and whether the person who picked it up holds onto it, returns it to the same shelf, puts it somewhere else or hands it to somebody. This is the huge difference between ‘end of shopping’ purchase and the Amazon concept; in a Go Store, there’s no finalisation of sale, the transaction essentially occurs when your decision to buy is made.

The media has downplayed this innovation, but it’s by far the most important. We tend to think of these self-serve concept stores (which Amazon certainly didn’t invent) as glorified scanners, meaning that a device replaces a cashier but the process remains the same – decide to purchase, pay and leave the store. Amazon turns that on its head, as you agree to pay upon entry, decide to buy and then leave. Your transaction is finalised after you leave the store, but the purchase was made long before then.

The reason this is important is the failure of self-serve devices to remove the most frustrating part of the shopping experience – lining up to pay. Until now there has still been a need for customers to scan their own items, bag them and pay – essentially removing the human element rather than streamlining the process. Go Stores remove the transaction altogether, meaning the only line you’ll end up in is trying to get out the door. You can even put items in your pocket or bag while you’re in the store, meaning that end-of-transaction packing becomes a thing of the past.

Don’t rush out to find your nearest location just yet however, as there’s only one Go Store in existence; and it’s for Amazon employees only. There will be stores open to the public in 2017.

 

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