MORTON GROVE, IL — High-tech contactless shopping is now a reality in more places.
Amazon, which is pushing deeper into the grocery store business, has eliminated check-out lines with a handful of stores offering the cashier-less experience. The stores don't even require you to scan your items as you select them off the shelf, a model that could become the future of all smart shopping.
With a quick QR code scan, you’re checked in.
“A lot of the feedback we get is I feel like, 'I'm shoplifting. I'm stealing,'” said Carl Andersen, a store manager at Amazon Fresh in Morton Grove, Illinois.
The company had already used "Amazon Dash Carts" to record purchases. But this is different.
Look up at the ceiling and you’ll see a trellis of cameras. Numbering in the hundreds, they are covering every square inch of the store.
“The cameras pick up what item was placed and scanned and given to you,” explained Andersen.
Coupled with computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, the technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves.
Whatever you leave with is charged to your credit card that is linked to your Amazon account when you scan out.
“You don't walk out of with a receipt directly, but you'll get a receipt within just a few hours of leaving the store,” said Andersen.
Instead of paper cards, produce prices are centrally updated and displayed electronically on mini-screens similar to a Kindle reader.
“They'll display the item itself, how much it is, if it's on sale and it also has a star rating on there just to show you, ‘Hey, this item has been reviewed 20,000 times on Amazon,” said Andersen.
There are a handful of Alexa stations where you can find out anything you need to know about where things are, recipe suggestions or what’s on sale that week.
Since September of 2020, the tech giant has opened 23 specialty Amazon Fresh grocery locations around the country. A half dozen stores are now using the “Just Walk Out technology” in California, Illinois, Washington state and Washington, D.C.
And it’s looking like this could be the future of in-store shopping.
One study found that the value of transactions processed by smart checkout technologies will reach $387 billion in 2025.
There are still employees in the store, stocking shelves, making fresh sushi, and preparing home deliveries. Cashiers are on hand in case you’re unnerved by all the cameras and want to shop without being tracked.
“We'll have the people that are a little nervous at the beginning to use it,” said Andersen. “So, the first time they come in, they might want to choose to do traditional shopping, or they might want to talk to the cashiers as they're walking out of the door.”
But the company says it encourages shoppers to use the technology, so they don’t have to wait in line or ever open their wallets.
“There's no line. There's no wait,” said Andersen. “You're truly just getting a quick shopping experience and you can make it as long or as quick as you want.”
Driven in part by the pandemic, the automated technology is already making its way to other retailers. Amazon says the “Just Walk Out technology” is now being used in retail, hospitality, and stadium settings with more to come.