Amazon is reportedly planning a big expansion for its cashierless store format in 2020.
According to Bloomberg, the retail giant wants to open both larger supermarkets and smaller pop-up stores as early as the first quarter of 2020, both using the same Amazon Go technology that creates a shopping experience without any checkout lines. Bloomberg notes that this expansion could include Amazon licensing its technology to rival retailers, some of which have been investing in cashierless tech of their own.
When Amazon first began developing the Go format, it planned to create large-scale cashierless supermarkets that stocked a wide range of goods. It eventually downsized these plans, and Go stores today tend to be smaller spaces (around 2,000 square feet) with a focus on daily consumables like sandwiches, salads, drinks, and snacks.
Last month, GeekWire reported that the Amazon Go team is currently testing a larger store space in Seattle that’s around 10,400 square feet in size. Bloomberg says the company eventually wants to have Go stores as big as typical supermarkets, around 30,000 square feet.
Amazon’s stores use cameras and machine vision to track what customers pick up in the stores. Upon entering a Go store, customers scan an app on their smartphone and grab what they need from the shelves (all tracked by the cameras). Then, upon exiting the store, they are automatically billed for their purchases. The first Amazon Go store opened in Seattle in December 2016.
News of possible Amazon Go expansions should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, however. Reports earlier this year suggested that Amazon planned to open 56 stores by the end of 2019 and 156 by the end of 2020. So far, the company has only opened 21 stores across Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, with three more known to be in the works.
Although Amazon Go customers say the experience of shopping in the stores is seamless, Bloomberg notes that retail analysts have questioned whether this high-tech format is a good fit for the low-margin world of convenience stores. Another reported difficulty is finding retail space with high enough ceilings to accommodate Amazon’s camera arrays.
In addition to its Go stores, Amazon is reportedly planning to open a completely new grocery chain separate from Whole Foods, which it purchased in 2017.