Blog Insight

Why Amazon Go Impressed the Hell out of Us

Last week, those of us on GLG’s UX team visited Amazon Go, a new grocery store concept where mobile apps and overhead cameras combine to eliminate the need for the traditional grocery store checkout process. In this week’s blog, we’ll walk you through the technologies we saw during our visit and share our thoughts about Amazon Go’s unique customer experience.

Through careful choreography of many technologies, Amazon has provided an innovative response to grocery shoppers’ top pain point: waiting in long checkout lines.(1) And in doing so, Amazon is also saving money, since checkout staff represents 30 percent of the average grocery store’s labor costs.(2)

Before we even arrived at Amazon Go, we were pleased to find simple instructions and videos online that informed us of the steps we needed to take prior to our arrival. When we walked up to the store, the entry was staffed with greeters, like the ones at Walmart, who assisted us into the entry queue and provided tech support to make sure we had completed all the necessary steps to gain entry to the store.

The entry process was like using your phone to board an airplane. We downloaded an app, launched our unique “boarding pass,” and scanned our way through the security gate. Once we were inside, overhead cameras watched our every move and tracked what we placed into our baskets, charging the items to our phones.

The store merchandise consisted of ready-to-eat meals, quick home-cook meal kits, and a few staples. Amazon had made a special effort to partner with local food producers and national brands to ensure that Seattleites’ favorite foods were stocked.

Dot-and-diamond packaging barcode labels assisted the ceiling-mounted cameras in recognizing difficult-to-differentiate food products, such as chopped fresh fruit.

We noticed that the dot-and-diamond barcode pattern was also part of the store’s design vernacular and branding. Illuminated dot-and-diamond exterior signage provided Amazon Go with instant street-level recognition. And the same dot-and-diamond pattern was printed onto all Amazon Go swag.

Upon leaving the store, we received notification messages sent through the app that confirmed our visit, listed the items we had purchased, and proactively provided instructions to resolve any checkout errors that might have occurred.

Ultimately, we were all very impressed with our visit. However, we also recognized that this type of shopping experience could be a roadblock for some consumers. Amazon Go’s 1,800-square-foot space is strategically sized to accommodate fresh, immediate food items that consumers prefer to shop for in person. However, for typical supermarket shoppers who seek products for week-long meal planning or bulkier items like toilet tissue, Amazon Go lacks the necessary stock.(3) Amazon Go shoppers are also required to have a smartphone, an Amazon account, and a valid credit card or bank account, which makes shopping there impossible for those without a credit card or bank account and those without smartphones.

Our final verdict: Amazon Go’s digitally enabled experience ushers in a new era of checkout-free shopping. We’re excited to see how the company scales this offering. And we’ll definitely be returning for another round of tofu banh mi sandwiches.

 

1. Tobie Stanger, “Grocery Gripes: Supermarkets with the Most and Least Complaints,” Consumer Reports website, June 13, 2017, https://www.consumerreports.org/grocery-stores-supermarkets/supermarkets-with-most-and-least-complaints/.

2. “The Future of Grocery—In Store and Online,” McKinsey Podcast, McKinsey & Company website, June 2017, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/the-future-of-grocery-in-store-and-online.

3. “Nielsen Global E-Commerce and the New Retail Report: The Future of Grocery,” Nielsen website, April 2015, https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/nielsenglobal/vn/docs/Reports/2015/Nielsen Global E-Commerce and The New Retail Report APRIL 2015 (Digital).pdf.