Quick Bite: What's Going on With Amazon's Cashierless Checkout Tech?
We look at some, ummm, hiccups its different approaches are encountering.
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As it encroaches into more parts of our lives, it’s often easy to forget that even the mighty mighty Amazon stumbles from time to time (we’re looking at you, Fire phone).
I don’t want to call Amazon’s different forays into cashierless checkout stumbles, exactly. That feels too harsh. Amazon is basically the godfather of the “Just Walk Out” technology, and the first one on the beach takes all the bullets.
But Business Insider posted a story yesterday based on a leaked internal Amazon memo that outlined how its smart Dash Carts are falling short of expectations (sub required). That got me thinking about how well the company’s different takes on cashierless checkout are faring, four years after the first Amazon Go store launched to the public.
Amazon has expanded the capabilities of its camera-based cashierless checkout beyond convenience stores and into larger supermarkets like Amazon Fresh.
Select Whole Foods are supposed to get the Just Walk Out technology starting this year.
Amazon Go stores are headed outside of city centers and out into the suburbs with a new store format.
Strabucks opened up an Amazon Go-powered store-within-a-store last year, and plans to open two more this year.
Per that Business Insider story, Amazon’s smart Dash Carts, which automatically keep track of items you put in them, were only being used in 10 - 15 percent of total shopping sessions as of August last year (short the company’s 30 percent goal).
According to BI, some problems attributed to Dash Cart’s sluggish adoption include its small size (called it!), slow item scanning — and the fact you can’t take it outside to your car(!).
Even Amazon’s camera-based system isn’t without its flaws. Last year we wrote about how it can take hours for customers to receive their digital receipt after they’re shopping trip.
To be clear, I do not think the sky is falling for Amazon. But I am saying that both the smart shopping cart and camera-based cashierless checkout sectors are teeming with upstarts ready to pounce. Let’s name a few:
Instacart, which acquired Caper Labs last year.
Nomitri (though technically that service just uses your phone, which is attached to the cart)
Computer Vision Checkout
Retailers are already reluctant to give Amazon — their biggest competitor — more money and data. There are plenty of cashierless startups champing at the bit to provide an alternative. Having technology that doesn’t work or scale quite right is an unforced error Amazon shouldn’t be making.