Just two days after announcing it would sell the Just Walk Out technology behind its no-cashier Amazon Go stores to other retailers, Amazon.com Inc. confirmed two clients would start using the technology next week.
Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out technology allows shoppers to select products at a physical store and then leave the store without having to scan products at a cashier. Consumers enter the stores through a turnstile using their credit card, grab the items they wish to purchase and walk out. The system will charge purchases to the credit cards consumers use to enter the stores. Unlike Amazon Go stores, the cashier-free stores will not require customers to download a mobile app before purchasing.
Airport retailer OTG Experience LLC announced Wednesday it would roll out the Amazon technology at some of its CIBO Express Gourmet Markets chain of food stores, which operates 100 locations at 10 major U.S. airports. Starting March 16, OTG will begin using the technology in Terminal C of Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport, the company says. Later, OTG plans to install the Just Walk Out system at more of CIBO’s Newark Liberty locations, along with stores in New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, the company says without providing specifics.
Meanwhile, concessions company Levy Restaurants plans to bring the technology to Chicago’s United Center—home of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team and Chicago Bulls basketball team—starting with a single grab-and-go store in the arena.
An Amazon spokesman confirmed OTG and Levy Restaurants plan to start using the Just Walk Out technology but declined to provide additional information. According to Reuters, Amazon (No. 1 in the 2019 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) says it has “several” signed deals with retailers intending to use the cashier-free technology but has declined to name all of them.
Amazon says the Just Walk Out system uses “a combination of sophisticated technologies” to determine which shopper to associate with a particular credit card. It then keeps track of when the shopper removes an item from a shelf or puts something back. When shoppers pick up items, the system adds those products to their virtual carts. Likewise, Just Walk Out deletes products from the virtual carts when shoppers return the items to the shelf. As with Amazon Go stores, the cashier-free system charges shoppers for their purchases once they leave the store.
“Our first location is opening Monday, our second location is teed up to open two weeks beyond that, and we have a rolling release schedule for 2020,” Jaime Faulkner CEO of E15 Group, Levy’s analytical arm, told Forbes contributor Tim Newcomb.
“OTG has always embraced technology as a means of optimizing the airport experience so that we can give our guests their time back,” Rick Blatstein, CEO of OTG, said in a statement. “By using the world’s most advanced shopping technology in our CIBO Express Gourmet Markets, we’re doing just that by putting our guests in full control of their time.”
Cashier-free technology is likely to become commonplace
It makes sense for retailers to start using cashier-free technology, says Brendan Witcher, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
“Every retailer out there recognizes that consumers today see no value in the checkout line. It’s a pain point and always has been,” Witcher says. Whether they work with Amazon or another vendor, he expects retailers to adopt cashier-free technology.
From Amazon’s perspective, licensing Just Walk Out is an great way to deploy the technology at scale and build goodwill with retailers—many of which sell on Amazon’s marketplace—by offering them access to the cashier-free technology, Witcher says. Amazon has been good about sharing new capabilities with users of its cloud services, so licensing Just Walk Out could be seen as an extension of that effort, he says.
If Amazon acts like a traditional vendor, he says, there is no reason to think the ecommerce giant would gain access to the transaction data of retailers that license Just Walk Out.
But retailers—especially those that compete directly with Amazon—might be hesitant to license Just Walk Out, says Brian Walker, chief strategy officer for retail merchandising software provider Bloomreach Inc. He says Just Walk Out probably makes sense for some retailers. However, retailers “of any reasonable scale” likely will go elsewhere for their cashier-free technology. That’s because big-box retailers and grocery chains have no interest in helping Amazon develop and improve its cashier-free technology, he says.
Cashier-free technology has the potential to boost sales because long checkout lines can result in abandoned physical carts, says Erik Morton, senior vice president, product and strategy for ecommerce software provider CommerceHub. “With no lines, no waiting, shoppers are likely to spend additional time in-store and purchase more products,” he says.
Amazon has assured retailers it will collect just the data needed to provide shoppers with accurate receipts, Morton says. “Even with this assertion, retailers will have to weigh the potential risk that other consumer checkout data might still be captured and stored,” he says.
For its part, Amazon says retailers don’t have to fear that using Just Walk Out would mean turning over sensitive data. “We prohibit the use of Just Walk Out technology data for anything other than supporting Just Walk Out retailers,” Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, told Reuters.
Whether they buy the technology from Amazon or somewhere else, cashier-free technology is probably on its way to becoming a regular part of shopping, Witcher says.
“No one in the history of shopping has ever walked into a store and said ‘I hope I wait in line for 10 minutes,'” Witcher says. “That says it all.”Favorite