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06/14/2021

Amazon Ushers In Checkoutless Grocery Era

Company to open full-size store with Just Walk Out tech
Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
Gina Acosta profile picture
a man standing in front of a store
Amazon has extended its "Spend less. Smile more." messaging campaign to all of its Amazon Fresh grocery stores.

Amazon is about to disrupt the American grocery landscape yet again.

The company has revealed to Progressive Grocer that it is bringing its autonomous checkout technology to its Amazon Fresh grocery chain, which currently has a footprint of 13 stores. On June 17 in The Marketplace at Factoria in Bellevue, Wash., the company will open a new, 25,000 square foot Amazon Fresh store featuring checkoutless technology. The store will offer consumers all of the departments of a traditional grocer, including produce, meat, seafood, prepared foods, and bakery, with the option to skip the checkout line.

This is the first time that Amazon's Just Walk Out technology will be available in a full-size grocery store. No other company has launched similar technology in a full-size supermarket.

“Customers have enjoyed the effortless shopping experience enabled by our Just Walk Out technology at our Amazon Go, Amazon Go Grocery, Amazon Fresh stores in the UK, and third-party retailer stores. The feedback has been fantastic, with customers noting that skipping the checkout allows them to save time and reduce contact in stores,” said Dilip Kumar, vice president of Physical Retail and Technology at Amazon.

While customers can come in, shop for the groceries they want, and skip the checkout line using Just Walk Out technology, they will also have the option to use traditional checkout lanes, staffed by Amazon employees, who will be available throughout the store for assistance. The opening of this new store is poised to reset shoppers' expectations around the definition of a truly frictionless grocery experience.

According to Amazon, the Bellevue store will not offer the high-tech Amazon Dash Carts found in many Amazon Fresh bannered stores. However, the company will continue to offer the carts in other Amazon Fresh stores, according to a spokesman. 

Amazon Fresh Bellevue will be open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

The company also revealed to Progressive Grocer that it has extended its "Spend less. Smile more." messaging campaign, introduced on Amazon.com last year during the holidays, to all Amazon Fresh stores, as of March. Amazon has installed signing with the slogan inside its grocery stores.

Amazon has been quietly preparing to bring its cashierless tech to full-size supermarkets for a while. Bloomberg reported in April that the company has a location in Connecticut under construction with entry and exit gates and ceiling-mounted racks that are consistent with Just Walk Out tech. 

HOW IT WORKS

Amazon's Just Walk Out technology is made possible by a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning, and adds convenience to customers’ grocery shopping experience by giving them the option to come in, pick up what they want, and skip the checkout when they’re done. Anyone shopping at the new Amazon Fresh store can take advantage of the technology, which connects to customers’ Amazon account or credit card. Customers are prompted at the store’s entry gates to choose if they want to use Just Walk Out shopping or the traditional checkout lanes.

Customers who opt for Just Walk Out shopping can enter the store in three ways: They can scan the QR code in their Amazon app, use Amazon One to scan their palm, or insert a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account. Each option will open the Just Walk Out gates.

Once inside the store, customers can shop like normal. Anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart. At the end of their trip, customers shopping with the Just Walk Out experience simply scan or insert their entry method again to exit.

“Bringing Just Walk Out technology to a full-size grocery space with the Amazon Fresh store in Bellevue showcases the technology’s continued ability to scale and adapt to new environments and selection. I’m thrilled it’ll help even more customers enjoy an easier and faster way to shop and can’t wait to get their feedback on this latest Just Walk Out offering,” Kumar said.

Shoppers who use the Just Walk Out experience will be sent digital receipts, also available in their Amazon account. Traditional checkout shoppers will get a paper receipt, and recognized Amazon customers will also receive a digital receipt.

A FAST-GROWING CHAIN

The first Amazon Fresh store opened in August 2020. Since then, the retailer has opened 13 stores across California, Illinois and Virginia. 

“We’ve received incredible feedback from customers at our Amazon Fresh stores in California, Illinois, and Virginia about our low prices and broad grocery selection, as well as innovations to make shopping simpler and more convenient, like free grocery delivery and pickup for Prime members, Amazon.com returns capabilities, and Alexa shopping. Customers love the convenience, selection, and value offered by Amazon Fresh—and now customers in Bellevue will get to experience the added convenience of Just Walk Out shopping in our newest Amazon Fresh store,” said Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh Stores. “Our hundreds of store employees have been working hard to get the store ready, and we’re eager to hear feedback from customers as we open our doors to the Bellevue community in the coming days.”

Last month Amazon reportedly shelved its Amazon Go Grocery brand, closing one of its two stores by that name in Washington state and re-christening the other under its Amazon Fresh banner, according to the Seattle Times. Amazon closed its Go Grocery store in Redmond; its other Go Grocery store, on Capitol Hill, will remain open and will be rebranded to Amazon Fresh, the Times reported.

Amazon told the Times it was ending the Go Grocery line to “simplify the experience for our customers." Today Amazon operates three food retail banners in the U.S.: Whole Foods Market (acquired in 2017), Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh.

This morning, company posted the following FAQ on its blog:

1) Why did you add Just Walk Out shopping to Amazon Fresh?
We first introduced Just Walk Out shopping in our Amazon Go stores several years ago, and since then we’ve expanded it to additional Amazon Go and Amazon Go Grocery stores, our Amazon Fresh stores in the UK, and also offer it to third-party retailers as a service for use in their stores. We’ve heard from customers how much they love the effortless shopping experience and convenience of skipping the checkout line, and we’re thrilled to bring it to our larger Amazon Fresh grocery store in Bellevue for the first time.

2) How do you protect customer data?
At Amazon, nothing is more important to us than earning and maintaining customer trust. We take data security and privacy seriously, and any sensitive data is treated in accordance with our long-standing policies.

3) Will you add Just Walk Out shopping to other Amazon Fresh stores? What about Whole Foods Market?
For now we’re excited to see how customers like the Just Walk Out shopping experience at the Amazon Fresh store in Bellevue, and we’ll go from there.

Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2021 PG 100 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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