Supermarket Sweep

23 January 2018 | Liz Bowen

Ah, the self-service checkout. For many, the dream. A few simple scans, place your items in the bagging area (if it recognises it…), pay and then, you’re on your way. Magic.

However, we’ve all, at one point or another, suffered the frustration of having an unidentified item in the bagging area. Or, standing there for what seems like eternity while the machine repeatedly tells you to place the item in the bagging area, even though you did that about an hour ago.

Let’s be honest, using the self-service checkouts is a lottery and one I’m only willing to gamble on when I’m in the right mood or bulk buying the chocolate and ice cream and don’t want to face the inevitable judgment of the cashier.  

But if you’re still one who prefers actual human contact at the likes of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons et al, then Amazon’s recent supermarket launch probably won’t be quite up your aisle.

The internet retail giant has this week launched its AI-powered checkout-free supermarket  on the ground floor of the company’s Seattle headquarters.

‘Amazon Go’ has no checkout. Instead, shoppers scan their smartphone with the app at a turnstile, pick out the items they want which are tracked with AI-powered cameras and weight sensors (and charged to the customer’s Amazon account,) and then leave.

While there are still staff members on hand in the store, making food, stocking shelves and helping customers, the main difference for shoppers will be the lack of queueing (high five to that).

Amazon isn’t the first company to pilot cashier-less stores – BingoBox has opened several of the stores across China, however they still rely on scanning items at standard self-checkout machines.  

While the Amazon Go store has not been without its challenges, in this fast-paced, technologically advanced world in which we now live, the move is certainly a PR win for Amazon.

No-one really likes grocery shopping. Eating, sure, but traipsing up and down aisles after a long day before being faced with the inevitable queues? No so much. But in saying that, the move does bring up the long-running debate of whether or not people prefer dealing with a person.

I think it’ll be a good long while before the concept is rolled out internationally, but as a PR stunt, it’s certainly a novelty and one that could genuinely change the face of supermarket shopping as we know it.