Now in beta mode with Amazon employees, the 1,800-square-foot store, selling ready-made meals and grocery staples, should open to the public next year. It is located in Seattle, where the 22-year-old brand is headquartered.
For years, retailers and tech companies have touted futuristic possibilities like the new store Amazon is introducing. In one memorable, 10-year-old ad that Reddit users quickly referenced for its similarity on Monday, IBM featured a man who appeared to be shoplifting from a store, but was actually purchasing items via RFID technology.
Amazon has more likely invested in motion-capturing cameras and beacon technology, experts said, based on the company’s own description of the store. But the vast number of retailers in business today still use traditional checkouts, including grocers who make use of self-checkout registers. Many brands lack the financial resources to make the technological investment involved in such a futuristic upgrade, so a similar store rolling out to the masses beyond Amazon’s pilot could still be a decade away.
“The development of the technology is something a traditional grocer would never be able to fund themselves,” said Greg Portell, lead partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm. “This is Amazon taking advantage of their other R&D programs, their willingness to experiment at scale.”
He noted that the challenge for Amazon will be creating an error-free checkout. “The idea of a frictionless experience is great until that frictionless experience causes more headaches than it’s worth.”