29th March 2020

Technology Amazon’s Just Walk Out till-free tech offered to rivals

Technology Amazon’s Just Walk Out till-free tech offered to rivals

Technology

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Amazon opened its largest Go Grocery shop, last month, in Seattle

Amazon is offering its till-less technology to other High Street shops, just over two years after launching it via its own Go Grocery chain.

Go Grocery shoppers scan a smartphone app as they arrive, allowing them to pay via their main Amazon accounts.

It has now adapted its Just Walk Out system for other retailers so shoppers register a payment card on entry and are automatically billed as they leave.

But, unlike at Go Grocery, users’ Amazon accounts will not be involved.

And the firm has said that information collected about consumers will only be used to support the retailers it has partnered with.

“We only collect the data needed to provide shoppers with an accurate receipt,” Amazon’s website says.

“Shoppers can think of this as similar to typical security camera footage.”

The system involves fitting a shop with hundreds of cameras and depth-sensors, whose data is then remotely analysed on Amazon’s computer servers.

The software can distinguish whether a shopper has picked up and kept a product for purchase or if they have only examined an item before replacing it back on a shelf.

Amazon says it can install the required equipment in “as little as a few weeks”.

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Cameras and other sensors in ceilings monitor shoppers below

NBK Retail consultancy founder Natalie Berg said the move had been long-expected.

“It’s far more lucrative for Amazon to license the technology to other retailers than to just use it in its own grocery stores,” she said.

“What Amazon does very well is cut out friction and of course the biggest source or friction in the grocery stores and supermarkets is the checkout.

“But there will still be opportunities for other vendors [with rival solutions] because you’re never going to see Walmart implement Amazon’s checkout-free tech.”

Technology ‘Job losses’

The announcement comes two weeks after Amazon opened its largest Go Grocery shop.

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Amazon tracks each customer as they move around the shop

The Seattle-based shop stocks about 5,000 items and covers more than 10,000 sq ft (929 sq m), making it about five times bigger than the average Go outlet.

But UK supermarkets can be up to 185,500 sq ft and questions remain about how long it will take before Amazon or any of its rivals’ technologies can be reliably deployed at such scale.

Simpler technologies to reduce the need for staffed checkouts include portable barcode scanners and tills that allow shoppers to ring up their own items.

Advocates of such tech suggest it frees up workers to perform more interesting tasks.

Amazon’s own site says: “Retailers will still employ store associates to greet and answer shoppers’ questions, stock the shelves, check IDs for the purchasing of certain goods, and more – their roles have simply shifted to focus on more valuable activities.”

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Amazon Go shops encourage visitors to bag their goods as they go

Ms Berg said: “Ultimately, there will be fewer jobs as automation comes in.

“But [those that remain] will focus on more customer-facing tasks and should provide a better experience to customers.

“And from that point of view, the skills required across the retail sector are going to evolve massively over the next decade.”

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