“Shoplifters of the world unite!”, so sang The Smiths 30 years ago. It seems that Amazon will soon be making stores where you can walk straight out with products a reality. No queueing, no checkouts, simply pick up what you want and walk out.

The all-conquering online retailer opened its first bricks and mortar food store – under the Amazon Go brand name – near its Seattle HQ on 5th December 2016. Currently only open to Amazon employees, it’s expected to open fully to members of the public early this year.

How does it work?

The products aren’t free of course, so how does the checkout-less concept work? Customers must first download the Amazon Go app to their mobile. Stores are equipped with train station style electronic barriers where the customer will tap their mobile as they walk in, registering their arrival.

They are then free to browse the store with everything they pick up from the shelves being automatically added to their Amazon Prime basket. If they put a product back, it’s removed from the basket. Once they’ve got everything they need, they can walk straight out and their Amazon Prime account is charged, with the receipt appearing in the app. Amazon call it “Just Walk Out” technology.

How quickly will it spread?

Amazon are keeping quiet so far on its growth plans for the Go store concept, but has rejected reports that it intends to open 2,000 stores in the USA, some as large as your typical UK supermarket. Apparently the British love queueing, but it registered a UK trademark last year and has in the past launched new formats here soon after the USA, with UK consumers showing themselves to be open to new ways of shopping.

Amazon want to disrupt and take out inefficiencies from retail whatever the format. We’ve seen Amazon try out pretty much every one of its ideas from the US in the UK and I wouldn’t be surprised if next year we see the launch of a very similar service.
— Neil Campling – Analyst, Northern Trust Capital Markets

In summary

We reported on Starbucks’ Order & Pay app feature around a year ago, which allows customers to order and pay before visiting the store, enabling them to simply walk in, collect their coffee and leave. This has proven phenomenally successful, with over 4% of orders now being made in advance (as high as 10% in some stores).

Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out concept seems to be the natural extension to this for grocery stores, completely removing the frustration of queueing to buy what are often purchased, relatively low cost items.