A core feature of a shop or store is the checkout, where you pay for whatever it is you’ve just bought. It’s obviously a key part of any sort of place where things are bought, though recently there have been some shops that have launched without a checkout of any kind. If checkout-less stores become popular, what would this mean for retail jobs? Here’s what we know so far about Amazon’s stores with no checkouts.
How do they work?
Amazon’s first checkout-less store opened in Seattle in January 2018. It attracted a lot of attention, and a lot of queues. It uses a wealth of surveillance technology to track customers. When you enter, you simply walk through the gates and swipe your smartphone – your phone has to have the Amazon Go app for you to be able to enter the store and make purchases. Once you’re physically inside the store, your movements and ‘purchases’ (items you pick up and hold on to) are tracked by loads of strategically placed cameras and sensors throughout the store. Your purchases are totalled as you pick up items – anything you put back on the shelves is removed from your list of purchases. When you leave the store through the gates and swipe your phone, any items you have with you are considered purchases and the cost of them is deducted from your account. Basically, there’s no queueing, no tills, no self-service checkouts and no need for human interaction (unless you’re purchasing something with an age restriction, like alcohol; there is a staff member present to ID customers and verify their age). You just scan your phone, walk in, pick up what you want, scan your phone again on your way out and you’re done.
The future of checkout-less stores
These prototype ventures by Amazon have been hailed by some as revolutionary, though in a way they’re kind of a ominous sign of things to come – if stores can operate without checkouts, what does this mean for retail staff? If checkout-less stores become popular, will this have an adverse effect on the number of retail jobs available? At the minute it’s too early to tell whether this new way of shopping is set to become the norm. There are currently just three ‘Amazon Go’ stores, all of which are located in Seattle. It remains to be seen whether Amazon will open up new Amazon Go checkout-less stores elsewhere and whether the concept will catch on. It’s a cool idea and will no doubt attract a lot of attention if more stores do open, though there will no doubt be plenty of opposition, with many preferring the ‘traditional’ way of shopping.