Amazon Reportedly Testing Cashierless Tech in Larger-Scale Retail Spaces
The opening of a cashierless convenience store was never going to be the be-all-end-all for Amazon. Since the first Amazon Go went live earlier this year, the company has expanded its concept store to a half-dozen locations with plans to supposedly open thousands more by 2021. But even that doesn’t begin to tell the story of where Amazon plans to go with this futuristic retail technology.
According to a report out of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is actively working to test that same technology in larger retail spaces. Underway in a larger space formatted like a big box brick and mortar location, the system is designed around the same technology that powers the Amazon Go cashierless stores, but on a much larger scale. That scale, according to the people familiar with Amazon’s plans, is considered to be a massive challenge to both the company and its cashierless technology. Whereas, the standard Go store has a traditional convenience store vibe with short ceilings and a relatively small-scale retail footprint (meaning less product), a big box store has much higher ceilings, square footage in the tens of thousands, and exponentially more product. Given those challenges, it's expected that the technology is still a ways away from being ready for a public rollout.
The WSJ report notes that Amazon has previously said it had no plans to add the technology to the Whole Foods locations that it purchased a few years ago, but the success of the Go stores appears to make that statement somewhat outdated. A move to add this technology to the existing grocery locations, or at least create newer, larger Amazon stores with the technology simply makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, it would allow Amazon to either significantly reduce its retail workforce, or use those employees in a different and perhaps more efficient capacity. And second, it would enable them to better manage inventory levels for its grocery delivery business. To the latter point, one of the biggest struggles with grocery delivery services—as consumers who use services like Amazon Fresh or Instacart might tell you—is that there’s a major disconnect between stock levels in the respective apps and what’s available on the actual shelves. If the Amazon Go technology proves useful in those larger-scale retail applications, it could serve as the perfect solution to that type of problem.