What Convenience Store Operators Can Learn from Amazon Go was published for client DayMark Safety Systems
In September 2018, Amazon opened its fourth Amazon Go store, this time in Chicago. If convenience store operators assumed there would be long lines of people eagerly awaiting the store opening, they would be wrong.
Instead, there was quite a bit of hesitancy among potential shoppers. Many just had too many questions and concerns about the store to rush right in. Flashing through lots of minds were questions such as these:
- How does the store work?
- Will there be anyone there to help me?
- Do I need a credit card? Do they take cash?
- Will I look like a fool trying to figure everything out?
Well, finally, some people must have remembered what sales motivator Dale Carnegie said nearly a century ago about situations such as this:
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out.”
Go out some Chicagoans did. Now, with their fears and doubts gone, they reported back to their friends, family, and office cohorts that they finally, “Amazon Went.”
Moreover, according to the Chicago Tribune, here is what they discovered: a store selling “grab-and-go food items designed to let busy shoppers skip the checkout line, and just walk out.”* In fact, Amazon calls the experience of shopping in these stores “walk out shopping.”
No doubt, convenience store owners/operators have their own questions about these stores, including whether they will prove successful. However, let’s answer some of the questions mentioned earlier.
Yes, there are several people in these stores providing help and assistance. As to how “walk out shopping” begins, as soon as someone enters the store, they scan an Amazon Go app. The app includes necessary shopper information, including the user’s credit card for charges.
However, a lot is going on behind the scenes that shoppers likely are not aware of, and Amazon Go has kept tight lips about much of the background technology in these outlets.
However, here is what we know or suspect, which may provide valuable insights for convenience store owners/operators:
- The stores have cameras and motion detectors to detect when customers remove things from the shelves.
- When the shopper places something in their shopping basket or cart, motion detectors are triggered to charge the customer’s credit card account.
- It is believed, but not confirmed, that the stores use facial recognition technology. This technology mathematically maps a shopper’s facial expressions and records the moment when, for instance, a shopper’s face “lights up” upon seeing a product they like.
- Once again, it is believed, but not confirmed, that the technology installed in these stores evaluates shopping patterns and habits like how long it takes shoppers to shop, whether most shoppers walk clockwise or counterclockwise through the store, and why they shop as they do.
- Finally, it appears, but is not confirmed, that the technology is designed to determine if shoppers read food product labels – and more specifically – if they read the labels indicating the ingredients used to make the many grab-and-go food items marketed in the store.
So, what is really going on here? Are these stores designed for shopping or collecting shopper data? It appears it is some of both.
Determining how shoppers shop will, in the future, help Amazon determine how many people must staff each store. Technology also helps food manufacturers, especially those providing grab-and-go food items, to quickly learn whether or not their products makes a shopper’s face light up. If their product is greeted with a frown instead of a smile, it gives them an opportunity to do something about it.
For example, what if those frowns are because a food item has too much fat in it? Cholesterol? Sodium?
With access to the new generation of menu management systems, which many convenience store operations now use, food ingredients can be changed quickly from a “central command” kitchen. Notification of these menu changes is relayed to computer “interfaces” located in each store location, instructing kitchen staff on changes to the food menus, and wirelessly delivering new food labels to in-store printing labeling systems.
It is likely, over time, that convenience store operators will get more insight into the shopper data collected at these Amazon Go store locations.
The data collected will help not only help Amazon, but convenience store operators as well. Operators will better understand how shoppers shop. If ingredients, for instance, in a grab-and-go food item need to be adjusted – to earn more smiles – those changes can now be made quickly and easily.
*October 8, 2018