Amazon to open its first Fresh supermarket with checkout-free technology
Published June 15, 2021
Amazon is planning to open a new Fresh store on Thursday that will be the first full-size supermarket in the chain to feature the retailer's Just Walk Out checkout-free technology, according to a company blog post.
Like other Fresh stores, the approximately 25,000-square-foot store at The Marketplace in Bellevue, Washington, will also feature traditional checkout lanes where customers can pay with cash, card and other methods like the Amazon One palm-scanning device. When they walk in, shoppers will be asked to choose between a traditional shopping experience or the Just Walk Out experience.
The latest addition to Amazon's fleet of Fresh supermarkets continues the company's drive to marry its technology-centric approach to retailing with time-honored physical shopping methods.
The new Amazon Fresh store once again pushes the envelope on store size when it comes to frictionless, computer-vision assisted shopping.
Up to this point, Amazon has largely limited its use of the Just Walk Out technology to its Go and Go Grocery stores, the largest of which is located in Seattle and has 7,700 of its 10,400 square feet dedicated to selling space. By contrast, the new Fresh store has about 16,000 square feet of front-of-house space.
Amazon's checkout-free technology, which it is also offering to third-party retailers, relies on computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning techniques to track items as they move from shelves to carts and ultimately exit the store. Reports have linked the technology to other forthcoming Fresh supermarket locations, and Amazon in its announcement seemed to leave the door open for this expansion, noting it's focused on opening this latest store and that "we'll go from there."
The soon-to-open Bellevue store is also notable for offering multiple checkout and payment options. Customers who opt to use the checkout-free system identify themselves as they enter the store by using a QR code on a smartphone, scanning their palm with an Amazon One reader, or inserting a credit or debit card connected to their Amazon account. When ready to leave, customers use the same method they used to enter to finish their transaction.
Shoppers who opt to pay at the register will be able to use cash, credit or debit cards along with Amazon One, the In-Store code in the Amazon app, or SNAP EBT payment.
Amazon has been testing its One payment tool at Whole Foods, Go and other store formats, and all Go stores offer access through the company's proprietary app.
Unlike other Amazon Fresh locations, the new Bellevue store, at 3903 Factoria Square Mall SE, will not feature Amazon's automated Dash Cart cart technology. That system, which uses cameras and weight sensors to record purchases as people place them in the cart, lets customers avoid checkout terminals, but each cart can accommodate only two bags worth of groceries.
Amazon's decision to equip the new Fresh supermarket with checkout-free technology raises the stakes for other tech companies that have also been refining computer vision-based systems that permit frictionless shopping. Those firms have attracted millions of dollars from investors as they have made inroads with retailers interested in trying checkout free systems in their stores.
Grabango announced earlier this month that it has raised $39 million in Series B funding and plans to use the new money to bolster its technical staff. Standard Cognition said in February that it had landed $150 million in a Series C round that valued the company at $1 billion, while Trax, which says it is working with retailers in more than 90 countries, brought in $640 million in Series E financing in April.
Amazon Fresh supermarkets, the first of which opened to the public last September in Woodland Hills, California, carry a variety of products commonly found at conventional grocery stores, including produce, meat, seafood and prepared foods. The stores also offer free delivery and pickup for Amazon Prime members and let people use the company's Alexa voice-recognition technology to manage shopping lists and locate items.
There are currently 13 Fresh stores across three states, with dozens more on the way, according to reports. Amazon also operates four Fresh stores in the U.K. that feature Just Walk Out technology and are each around 2,500 square feet.
In May, Amazon said it planned to phase out the Amazon Go Grocery name less than a year after inaugurating it. The company is rebranding its Seattle Go Grocery location as an Amazon Fresh store and closing another Go Grocery store in Redmond, Washington.