Amazon Go: They Win Again
I have a love hate relationship with Amazon. It is absolutely the only place to find almost everything I need. They are reliable. I get my package when they say I will. But as the cardboard Prime boxes pile up, I wonder what kind of an organization I am supporting.
The New York Times wrote a pretty rough article detailing the treatment of employees. And I have personally heard stories of what it is like to pack boxes on a daily basis. Friends who sell products or books through Amazon have some very sad stories about what happened to their businesses at the retail giants hands. The general consensus is their standards are unreasonably high. So I am still in, but I have questions.
My personal Amazon experience seems to be on the decline. While I still get my packages quickly and on time, most of what I order ends up being a very low quality product. I have to be so careful reading reviews and making sure what I am buying has some level of quality. I hate when my purchases arrive and have a dollar-store quality. So I am losing faith.
On my most recent trip to Manhattan, I came across one of 3 current Amazon Go locations in the city in the shadow of the World Trade Center. Upon entering, you are greeted with office building-style turnstiles and scan yourself in with the Amazon app. A helpful employee was there to walk you through the process. Once you are in, you shop and leave. Take one thing or fill bags and bags, all your movements are captured on video and your purchases recorded. Then you just leave. It is all magically charged to your Amazon account.
It was incredibly easy. It isn’t quite a grocery store, more like an upscale convenience store. But the whole thing was a pleasure. There were shelves of choices, all pretty healthy options. Everything from complete meal kits to individual snacks were neatly organized. The store was well designed and a pleasure to experience.
Junk food was largely absent. You could find lots of chocolate but it was all non-gmo and organic. You could pick up a drink but there was no soda or sugary options, just healthy smoothies or teas or seltzers. There were rows and rows of pre-made sandwiches, snacks and dinners. It all looked really fresh and well thought out. Every option was available for any possible dietary restriction. Gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian and vegan choices were available in every category.
Amazon seems to control the entire process. Their fresh food including the meal kits and individual sandwiches were all under the Amazon brand name. And very well done. Outside brands that were included were both foreign and domestic. It was like a “best of” collection.
The only bags available were brown paper. Good sign. The only paper towel brand available was Seventh Generation. Clearly, Amazon cares about what they sell in person. This store was a presentation of their brand in a light that I do not normally see them in.
No checkout line is interesting. What I want to know is how they are pulling that off. I picked up items that I did not ultimately buy. And I was still charged correctly. My daughter and I were shopping together. Her items were charged to me correctly as well. And there were a number of people shopping at the same time. Are there people in the back monitoring the many video cameras in the store? It is sort of disconcerting to think about how that works.
The entire experience was a pleasure. I have to say, Amazon is knocking it out of the park with their retail ideas. Their design is excellent and their plan is well-executed. It is another win for a company that hardly needed one.
The most impressive aspect of the store is that the technology is practically flawless. In their design, you can envision the future of retail. We are beyond a cashless society here. We have moved into the future where the only thing you need to function is your phone. And with 3,000 Amazon Go stores slated to open by 2021, the future is here.