AmazonGo : The future of shopping store

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In Brief

Long checkout lines no-more, says Amazon. Just Walk Out, is a simple concept that perfectly encapsulates the level of a convenience you will find at AmazonGo. AI to the rescue, customers just check in, pick up and go !! Shopping now takes as long as it did previously, minus peak hour checkout lines and even loading grocery bags on and off the car. Save the extra time for even more hobnobbing with a real human touch, i.e., the artificial one being the cut-short at the busy checkout point !!

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Topped off with optimized delivery by AmazonFresh, Amazon has become the biggest elephant in upmarket organic groceries with the acquisition of Whole Foods. (See SCG-L article “Amazon’s New High-end Grocery” here) Today, Amazon is exciting upscale consumers again adding a touch of AI proficiency to it’s already popular convenience store, AmazonGo. Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. It personifies the world’s most advanced shopping technology to bring forth a range of conveniences that answers the customer’s need, the most favorable among all being the elimination of checkout line waiting, once and for all. To have a Just Walk Out experience, shoppers simply scan the Amazon Go App’s QR code to enter the store, bag the products they want, and head out the door! The checkout-free applies the same technologies with that of autonomous vehicles to track items in a virtual cart. A receipt, not a bill, is auto charged against the registered account in the App. Another aspect of green shopping with paperless e-transactions.

It’s the “Store-of-the-Future” concept brought to life at scale, today. Just Walk Out aims to take out, once and for all, unnecessary inconveniences from “convenience stores”. One is located in the new Amazon Seattle headquarters, Washington, on a 1,800 square feet (approx. 168 square meters) land mass. The store was put in place to ascertain invaluable insights from actual customers. For a year now it has been experimenting sales operations with Amazon staff in South Lake Union. With a go-ahead from data, it went live with actual customers on Monday, January the 22nd of this year.

AmazonGo hosts a wide range of products, from the hot food bar to ready meals, to the whole work of organic groceries, vitamins and health products all the way to the alcohol section with a house of local-produced microbreweries, craft beers and fine wine. Perhaps, one aspect that makes it such a favorite is that it supports and promotes locally grown, raised, & produced products. The most popular feature, nonetheless, has become the checkout-less leniency, at late. Fascinating also, how long it took since Robert Ilijason’s clip went viral on youtube. The swede IT specialist opened the world’s first unmanned 24-7 retail store around 2-3 years ago that runs on an App with practically no employee around to handle security and cashier. Shortly thereafter Amazon recognized the potential of a simple concept and commenced the journey to bring it to life, at scale. The store remains several Amazon employees at various points to serve as product care-takers, e.g., sandwiches, salads, and etc. as well as render advice on how to use the shop as needed.

All payment, reciepts and related transaction history is stored and accessible on the App. Eligible redeemables, gifts, special offers and discouts are accurately applied and processed automatically, arguably, rest assured all applicable promotional program be exploited prior to expiration date. The shopping process ends at the very second the customer bags the last item from the shelve. The fact that customers no longer have to declair products for payment and thus ownership transfer marks AmazonGo as a key milestone in juxtaposition with all other preceding retail models.

The same way infrastructure-to-vehicle tracks self-driving cars, Just Walk Out technology can track taken and returned items from the shelf and monitor them throughout the store with a virtual cart. A Computer Vision is used to recognize store items while Sensor Fusion puts observed information from monitors to Bay’s Rule probability calculations and Deep Learning that carries out algorithms that work like a human’s neural network. In conjunction with the RFID tags on each store item, the technology connects digital cameras from over 100 angles in the shop, sensors at key locations that the customer moves through that allows the system to identify each individual shopper, bagged items and what they are looking for next. It can reassess when a customer returns and picks up a different item with accurate sales and fainancial statement for each transaction. It can also evaluate available stocks on the shelves for reorders and restocks, analyze and account for bestseller items that need to be prioritized high visibility locations to attract the most customers possible, thus, optimizing the entire store while alleviate congestions in typically crowded corners with optimum fluidity, efficiency and security.

Amazon uses a Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) that effectively processes graphic work in minutes on the world’s largest cloud computing platform; the Amazon Web Service (AWS); and it’s a service that generates more revenue and profits for Amazon than any other retailer can imagine, indirectly. It allows for a data warehouse that makes Amazon the king of cloud computing, first, and the king of retail, second. It can operate a big data, so big to the point that it can accurately predict when and which item will be selected from the shelve next for millions customers travelling around the world in different directions, instantanously. Incorporating inventory predictability with aforemention in-store capacities makes way for an optimum operational and transactional transparency, thereby integrity on an enterprise systemic level, anyone can hope for given the present state of affairs.

Innovation is a perspective. The key to success is a catch-22 undertaking: things “naturally develop gradually from a simple to a more complex form” but you can’t develop something without extensive customer centric experience. No one knows in advance which quality of a product or service the customers will embrace. No one starts with a perfect product on the shelf. Amazon spent 5 years testing and developing the store with an entire year dedicated to beta testing, a professional code of ethics mandate that specifies a software trial period to go through in the final stages of development, noteworthy, carried out by an independent party. Before AI was able to take over daily chores as a smooth operator it had to be proven beyond reasobable doubt that it is capable of managing things without erroneous sales transactions, and, is inclusive of all retail and software ethical aspects that could affect the customer and therefore the organization’s hard earned reputation one way or the other. Thus, a mandate preventing self-professed world class from undertakings without a viable testing period from an ethical standpoint.

The key success factor for automation, nonethess, is training the staff. Streamlined standard operating procedures, as an expected outcome from testing, must be in place for the new system to be managed properly and from the same page. To reach a level of machine learning and therefore an optimized operating model, the organization’s most important asset remains its human resource. AI can learn from existing patterns but not unpredictable, unreasonable, ones. It has to rely on people to be able to use technology as a tool to innovate and meet the ever changing needs of customers. Although cashier jobs may disappear in relatively close future, other, more important capacities, are expected to arise that require human intuition and touch. Stay tuned to see how things evolve.

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Reference and photos amazon.com, cnbc.com, forbes.com, arstechnica.com, inc-asean.com, recode.net, pexels.com

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