A Visit to Amazon Go
A few days ago I had posted online that I was planning on visiting the new Amazon Go store in 2 weeks when my wife and I have plans to be in the area... if I could wait that long. I could not wait that long. I made my pilgrimage Thursday night with my son in tow, I wanted to get another perspective on the experience from someone not involved in the food supply chain business. We arrived at the store just before 8pm, found a parking spot within a block and walked north past the new Amazon Biosphere buildings on our way to the entrance on the east side of the block.
The store itself from the outside is not flashy. There were a handful of Amazon employees dressed in orange shirts outside offering free tote bags, traditional smaller paper bags were available inside, and to assist / explain the concept. They were setup to deal with a line but it was 8pm, there was no line.
The entrance to the store requires that you scan in using the Amazon Go app. Once the app is downloaded to your smart phone and you have logged in, a barcode is created that you use to scan just to the right of the gate. The barcode itself is a 2D Aztec barcode. The barcode data is encrypted and if you are patient enough to watch it you can see it change from time to time. If you own a barcode scanner that can scan the Aztec symbology, you can see the data has changed. I am not sure why the barcode changes, guessing its a security thing.
One scan of your barcode lets in 1 person, although tempted, we did not test that limit. You can use the same account to allow more than 1 person in. You just need to scan each person in individually. My wife and I both have an Amazon account from pre wedding, her's is an Amazon prime account that gets regularly used, I am somewhat surprised mine has not been marked as abandoned. I logged in as my wife and both me and the boy made it in without an issue.
Once inside the first thing I noticed was the smaller size of the space and the lack of traditional aisles. The area right off of the entrance was an open area with product on 3 sides. To the right was a somewhat narrower space that did have a center display. There were a handful of employees in the store, 1 managing the small alcohol section, checking ID. The other couple visible employees were doing some combination of answering questions or stocking shelves. I had questions about the distribution / replenishment process that neither of the 2 employees I asked could answer. I was told to contact customer service through the app.
The product selection seemed unusual, many more unique, often local specialty types of products, specifically snacks, candy, cookies. Lots of specialty chocolates, not so many options for breakfast cereals. This was probably more having to do with being in the high tech area of downtown Seattle. Plenty of meals to go and desserts, or at least space for desserts. That was the one section that was noticeably out of stock, to the point where they seemed to run out of cards saying "So good its gone".
The nice thing about how the technology is being used is how you did not notice the technology. I did not have a feeling that I was being watched or any feeling I was shoplifting. I did have a hesitancy to take product off of the shelf to get a better look. It's my understanding there are weight sensors in the shelves that determine when something was picked up. The technology that was visible was not readily noticeable. One feature lacking from the Go app is the ability to see what is currently in the shopping cart. My one surprise was the lack of integration between the Amazon Go app and the Amazon Alexa app. I own 2 Echo Dots and 1 Echo Show and my household keeps a shopping list on Alexa. We log into both the Go and Alexa app using the same Amazon account. It is a mystery to me why there is no integration between the 2 apps to allow the Go app to see the Alexa shopping list. Why not take it a step further and have the Go app show you the location within the store of the items on the shopping list? I am fairly certain Amazon has familiarity with efficiently picking from a list.
Once outside the store we took one last trip around the Biosphere and we were done. Our receipt arrived within minutes correctly displaying our purchases with the option to initiate a refund for any item by swiping left and the amount of time in the store, 11 minutes 32 seconds.