In January of 2018, I covered the opening of the first Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle, which drew a large crowd of people that were eager to try their hand at shopping in the cashierless grocery store. At the time, it was unclear what role Amazon Go would play in the brick-and-mortal consumer grocery store industry. Now that it’s been a year, let’s take a look at what’s changed.
As Bloomberg reports, Amazon Go has expanded to nine stores in three cities and now, “a fleet of companies are working to replicate elements of Go or invest in other ways of streamlining store operations.” While the playing field is comprised mainly of startups, Walmart has tested technology akin to Amazon Go, and Microsoft and Kroger have teamed up to bring e-commerce into the physical grocery store. And this trend doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, as “venture capital firms backed U.S. companies working on store automation with $111 million in 2018, a record in Pitchbook data going back to 2003.”
A California-based startup released a cross between a vending machine and a convenience store called AiFi, which is designed to be set up at train stations and allows shoppers to enter, select a number of items, and pay by phone or credit card upon exiting. Companies in France and Poland have already expressed interest in testing this shopping style.
Not all options require massive construction or costly investments, however. Lindon Gao created a scanner to be attached to a shopping cart with a credit card reader to scan items as they are added to the cart. These Caper smart carts even have a scale for produce and other items priced by weight.
At the end of the day, the future of automated shopping experiences in the physical storefront is difficult to predict, however the technology companies that succeed will be those that consider how to streamline the shopping experience for their consumers.