Amazon plans to expand its Amazon Go stores by opening cashierless supermarkets. The company already has 21 Amazon Go stores, owns Whole Foods and wants to open a new grocery store chain. Ran Peled, VP of marketing at Trigo Vision, discussed the future of cashierless stores and what may happen to Amazon Go in an interview.
Cashierless Stores With a Cash Option?
Amazon Go allows shoppers to check into the store with an app and purchase items without checking out. The company relies on cameras, scanners and other technology to track what the customers buy and automatically charges them through the app.
Now, Bloomberg reports that Amazon wants to expand the concept by opening cashierless grocery stores. Amazon Go stores have been small and have limited selections, so it makes sense for the company to want to grow them.
“Amazon Go, which is an entirely new format, is a kind of lunch-time convenience store more than full a grocery store, which gives consumers very limited shopping choices,” Peled said.
Amazon Go includes two types of stores: 20 that simply do not accept cash, and only one store in New York that accepts cash through a cumbersome process. Anyone who wants to pay cash has to ask for assistance to enter the store. Before leaving, the customer has to find an employee to scan all the items one by one and accept the cash payment.
Amazon offers the cash option because of pushback from legislators who are fighting cash bans in stores. It is not clear if its new supermarkets will also have this choice for shoppers, but considering that lawmakers are trying to stop cashierless payments, Amazon may have to offer it in the future.
The Need for Real-Time Validation
“Amazon Go’s algorithms are assisted by actual people watching screens and validating the decisions the AI is making on what products people actually bought. That means that the system is not working in real-time as it needs to allow enough time for those remote people to look at the videos and validate,” Peled said.
Not being able to run in real-time means that if customers want to pay cash, on the spot, Amazon Go store staff needs to tell them exactly how much to pay. They cannot keep shoppers waiting for the human-assisted AI to finish validating everything they took from the shelves. This forces the Go employee to scan the items, which misses the point of the store in the first place.
Amazon will have to find a balance between cashierless technology and customers who need to pay with cash as it expands Amazon Go stores in the future. Real-time validation of a shopper’s purchases may help them achieve this.