Ama­zon Tests Wi­der Ca­shier­less Stra­te­gy

L'Opinion - - Protection Sociale Des Indépendants - Hea­ther Had­don and Lau­ra Ste­vens

Ama­zon.com Inc. is tes­ting its ca­shier­less che­ckout tech­no­lo­gy for big­ger stores, ac­cor­ding to people fa­mi­liar with the mat­ter. If suc­cess­ful, the stra­te­gy would fur­ther chal­lenge brick-and-mor­tar re­tai­lers ra­cing to make their bu­si­nesses more conve­nient.

The on­line re­tail giant is ex­pe­ri­men­ting with the tech­no­lo­gy in Seat­tle in a lar­ger space for­mat­ted like a big store, the people said. The sys­tems track what shop­pers pick from shelves and charges them au­to­ma­ti­cal­ly when they leave a store. Al­though the tech­no­lo­gy func­tions well in its cur­rent small­store format, it is har­der to use it in big­ger spaces with hi­gher cei­lings and more pro­ducts, one of the people said, mea­ning it could take time to roll out the sys­tems at more lar­ger stores.

It is un­clear whe­ther Ama­zon in­tends to use the tech­no­lo­gy for Whole Foods, al­though that is the most li­ke­ly ap­pli­ca­tion if exe­cu­tives can make it work, ac­cor­ding to the people. Ama­zon has pre­vious­ly said it has no plans to add the tech­no­lo­gy to Whole Foods.

A spo­kes­wo­man for Ama­zon de­cli­ned to com­ment. Whole Foods de­cli­ned to com­ment. The ca­shier­less sys­tem is al­rea­dy in use at se­ven Ama­zon Go conve­nience stores in Seat­tle, Chi­ca­go and San Fran­cis­co. The com­pa­ny plans to build more of these small stores, ac­cor­ding to one of the people fa­mi­liar with the mat­ter. Each is ty­pi­cal­ly less than 2,500 square feet and sells a range of drinks, pre­pa­red foods and gro­ce­ries.

Big­ger Ama­zon Go stores would re­present ano­ther threat to tra­di­tio­nal gro­cers dis­rup­ted by the on­line re­tail giant’s ra­pid ad­vance in­to food re­tail. Whole Foods, which Ama­zon ac­qui­red for rough­ly $13.5 bil­lion in 2017, has since ad­ded gro­ce­ry pi­ckups and one-hour de­li­ve­ry. It al­so has lo­we­red prices for Ama­zon’s Prime mem­bers.

Some Whole Foods cus­to­mers say they don’t want to see the ca­shier­less che­ckout sys­tem at a chain known for its high qua­li­ty of cus­to­mer ser­vice.

“They need to be ca­re­ful not to break what has made that bu­si­ness suc­cess­ful in the first place,” said Den­nis Keim, a 65-year-old re­ti­ree from Lin­coln, Neb., who shops at Whole Foods at least once a week.

Ama­zon has mo­ved dee­per in­to phy­si­cal re­tail over the past few years af­ter more than two de­cades sha­ping how people shop on­line. The com­pa­ny has ope­ned more than a do­zen books­tores and pop-up shops across the country.

Ama­zon al­so has conti­nued to im­prove the tech­no­lo­gy in­side the Ama­zon Go stores that first ope­ned to the pu­blic ear­lier this year. “We’re new to phy­si­cal space, but it’s im­por­tant for us,” said Di­lip Ku­mar, vice pre­sident of tech­no­lo­gy at Ama­zon Go, on a recent tour of the first of those stores in San Fran­cis­co. “It tends to build a lot of ha­bit.”

To use Ama­zon Go, cus­to­mers scan an app-ge­ne­ra­ted code on their phones as they walk in, then pick up what they want and leave wi­thout stop­ping to check out. Vi­deo ca­me­ras and other de­vices track cus­to­mers as a three­di­men­sio­nal ob­ject throu­ghout the store, char­ging them for what they take.

De­ploying the tech­no­lo­gy in a Whole Foods store, ty­pi­cal­ly 40,000 square feet and home to some 34,000 items, would be a big­ger chal­lenge. Whole Foods sales are dri­ven by pro­duce items, for ins­tance, whose prices va­ry by weight. Tra­cking them would be more com­pli­ca­ted than tra­cking pa­cka­ged foods of uni­form shapes and sizes.

Scott Ce­der­berg, a 38-yea­rold soft­ware en­gi­neer who bought a yo­gurt at the Ama­zon Go store in San Fran­cis­co re­cent­ly, said he would be willing to try a big­ger gro­ce­ry store using the ca­shier­less format.

“It would be conve­nient not to wait in che­ckout lines,” he said.

SI­PA PRESS

Each of the se­ven conve­nience stores – Seat­tle, Chi­ca­go and San Fran­cis­co – is ty­pi­cal­ly less than 2,500 square feet and sells drinks, pre­pa­red foods and gro­ce­ries.

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