Amazon Go recently opened in the heart of downtown Chicago, in the financial district know as “the loop.” The premise behind the Go store, first piloted in Seattle, are grab-and-go items with no check-out, no cashier and no lines.  No personal interaction necessary; an introverts oasis. Amazon calls the format ‘Just Walk Out Shopping.” Chicago is the first city outside of Seattle to have the new format but expansion plans include the likes of New York and San Francisco.

The execution of the shopping trip was exactly as advertised.  We walked in, took what we wanted and walked out.  The App got it right, delivering our receipt with perfect accuracy and charged our account with the items we ‘bought.’

What stood out was the Shopper experience.  We decided to do some stealth ‘shop-alongs’ to see the shopper reactions and take in the commentary of our cohorts.  The first thing we noticed was the ‘buzz.’  There was literally a hum of excitement as nearly all the shoppers were experiencing this new way of shopping for the first time.  Most everyone had a smile on their face as they took in the atmosphere and walked the aisles.

The novelty, technology and overall experiential aspect of the shopping trip reigned the moment.

With smiles on their faces, shoppers were openly commenting to each other….

  • “How do they know?? I don’t get it!”
  • “If you put it back, you better put it back in the same place… I think?”
  • “This is crazy!”
  • “Jeff Bezos, you evil genius, you!”
  • “I wanna see what happens if I mysteriously hide it”
  • “How the @#$% does it know, man? Look up man!”
  • “I better leave, I’m buying too much!”
  • “Wait, I want to do one more mysterious thing.”

Aside from the experience we observed some other interesting facts:

  • Out of Stocks were surprisingly prevalent. We were there at lunchtime so we can understand if fresh-made items were sold out but we saw a number of empty shelves, even early in the lunch hour and early in the day.  This is something we assume will be improved over time.

  • The on-shelf price was displayed clearly in large print so you couldn’t miss the pricing and it was easy to price compare. This was something that shoppers were paying close attention to and added to the positive experience.

  • There was a great mix of local and national brands. An abundance of choices for small square footage and the overall category and brand assortment within each category was expansive and impressive.  It will be important to keep up with the latest local trends as the stores launch in new neighborhoods…an interesting challenge awaits.  For the national brands, lots to consider if Amazon’s plan goes forward… over 2,000 stores are said to be in the works for the expansion.

The shopping experience was without a doubt engaging.  But will it be sustainable and profitable?  Are the cost of the prime real estate and the cost of the technology a recipe for combustion?  We tested this concept of ‘just walk out’ in the early 2000’s with Media Cart and the cost of the technology was just not financially sound… but just in these few years, the world of the shopper has changed dramatically so we say…only time will tell.