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Why Amazon Go May Not Be the Future of Retail

Posted by Ugochukwu A. on May 13, 2018

Amazon continues to introduce innovative devices and processes. The latest of these innovations is the Amazon Go store. The store offers cashier-less retail that allows customers to simply enter a store, grab their items and exit the building.

Even though Amazon Go provides an updated approach to the customer checkout process, it might not grow in popularity over time. One has to consider the complex technologies, reduced human interaction and potential for increased theft in order to come to this conclusion.

Technology Behind the Scenes

Entering the Amazon Go store requires one to download an application. This application acts as a pass to shop in the store. A recent New York Times article, explains how a shopper swipes the application over a scanner upon entering the store. As for monitoring bagged items, Amazon Go relies on a type of pattern recognition referred to as computer vision. This technology uses many cameras to keep track of which particular customer takes which particular item. The cameras monitor everything, crunch the required data and create a tally of the cost of each item acquired by each shopper. At the end of the trip, the shopper swipes out of the store and Amazon Go sends a receipt to the shopper.

This technology does not come cheaply. Larger retail stores might be able to afford it if Amazon ever decides to sell the service to other retailers, but smaller retail stores would most likely struggle with keeping up with costs.


No Man's Island

Amazon Go does not use cashiers or require checkout lines. And it does not rely on customer service as much as regular retailers. This might be fine for shoppers who are accustomed to using self-checkout, but for those who require more hands-on assistance this setup might not work. For instance, someone who sits in a wheelchair might not be able to reach items on the top shelf without the help of an associate -- something common at a regular retail store. Also, shoppers sometimes find it difficult to locate items throughout a store and lean on the advice of a store associate. With Amazon Go, this type of assistance will not be readily available. The experience is truly one of self-service.

Catch Me If You Can

The Amazon Go store in Seattle has cameras everywhere. Someone or something keeps a constant watch on each shopper. However, if one is innovative enough, one might find flaws in the system. For instance, a thief or pickpocket could steal an Amazon Go customer's phone and use it to purchase items from the shop and the customer would end up paying for the stolen items. Also, a hacker could swipe the login information of an Amazon Go client, use the information on a dummy phone and purchase grocery with another individual's money. Smaller retailers might not be able to handle inevitable chargeback requests or technology needed to upkeep the application.


Any retailer attempting to imitate the process of Amazon Go has to consider multiple factors. First, the technology required to implement the "Go" process relies on multiple cameras and computer vision algorithms. Then, one has to consider the reduced interaction associated with the process. Lastly, hackers and thieves could find a way to use customer information to indirectly steal from the customer using this system. The system would be expensive to implement for any entity, so it probably will not gain in popularity.

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Topics: Amazon Go, Retail, Technology, AI, Customer service, shopping, Computer Vision, Brick and mortar

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