business news in context, analysis with attitude

Lots of reaction to the new Amazon Go store...

From one MNB reader:

Love the "idea", but hate to be a party-pooper. What about the old problem, shop lifting!

You can't make money if 10 or 20 percent "walks" out the door without paying.

Their test is with their own employees, the real world will be different.

I don't think that Amazon has laid out how it will deal with potential shoplifters ... but I think it would be enormously surprising if, embedded in all this technology, it hasn't figured out a way to reduce its exposure. It might help not to see the glass as half-empty.

MNB user Edward Zimmerman sees the glass as half-full:

I’ve read the tsunami of opinions since ... Amazon Go was announced. It’s remarkable that no one has pointed out the ELIMINATION of shoplifting – which, on its own, might pay for the new technology.


Speaking of being a party-pooper, let me share with you the thoughts of MNB reader Bruce Wesbury:

I, as well as others are growing tired of your Amazon 24/7 coverage. So here is what I do to make it more palatable. I have an app that changes all instances of Amazon to Walmart within your website. This way I can relive the growth of Walmart and the mistakes they have made and then know that every business is cyclical. At some point you will need another bone to chew.

When that bone comes along, I'll be happy to chew it.

And while I understand that some might think I pay too much attention to Amazon, the kind of innovative thinking in which I am most interested (but not exclusively interested in) happens to be happening with a fair amount of frequency at Amazon headquarters. And the moves they are making there are going to have an enormous impact on everybody else - including the companies that would prefer less attention be paid to Amazon.

Besides, I've always figured that it isn't my job to give you the information and analysis you want. Other folks can do that. I think it is my job to give you the information and analysis that I think you need.

MNB reader Tom Murphy wrote:

Interesting technology, where the concept is not new, but the technologies, use cases, and underlying operating models are different.  I am going to hazard a guess that there are three major groups of folks now thinking about this: 1) those who see a way to cut the cost of operating a retail outlet, 2) those who see a way to offer a differentiated customer experience and 3) (which applies to Amazon only) those who think about both of these and also adding to a captive ecosystem.

Just a couple of commercialization thoughts likely to be going through Amazon’s mind (actually, they are probably much further along than this!): a) how will this consumer data drive more Amazon Prime customers and Amazon Fresh customers; b) how much can I charge my competition to use this capability and fixed or transaction fee based; and the scariest is…c) I don’t know, but it likely has to do with some way to get the competition to dig their own graves.  And as you would say, “that is the eye-opener”!

Agreed. I think the potential to integrate Prime benefits into the Amazon Go experience offers enormous potential.

MNB reader Ben Ball wrote:

Props to Michael for pointing out that this is an idea born in the business discipline of solving consumers’ problems. And to calling out Mike Wright (and we could add others of his ilk) who saw this problem for what it was long ago. But the biggest “aha” in this should be that this is also how Bezos arrived at the concept of Amazon Go. It was not a proprietary technology looking for an application. It was a consumer problem to which Bezos applied proprietary technology. And that kind of thinking is what makes Amazon “go”.

Absolutely true.

MNB reader Dan Raftery wrote:

The technologies are different, but the promise is the same as the old Andersen Smart Store.

At least two big differences today: People (certainly not all) are more comfortable with what was previously considered "privacy invasion," so that roadblock should be easier to get around; and systems are exponentially advanced from the clunky hardware and software that used to be state of the art. AI has taken a while to grow into commercial usefulness and Amazon has been nurturing it along as well or better than anyone.

So, hats off to the industry brain-trust that conceived of and marketed the Smart Store and to Amazon for taking it to the next level with Amazon Go.

And, by the way, this is why people should pay attention when I post emails from MNB "fave" Glen Terbeek ... because he was one of the chief architects of Smart Store. Glen was seeing this stuff long before anyone else, and he remains, even in retirement, one of the smartest and most insightful people I know. (Check out his book, "The Agency Agenda," on Amazon.)

From MNB reader Jim Swoboda:

We, too, 20 plus years ago, envisioned the elimination of the check out process.

It’s so hard to believe that we are this far down the road and it has not been solved as of yet.  It amazes me that given the current self check out processes, weighing products to insure they are in the bag, closing the transaction and letting people go has not been taken another step.  Imagine scanning your items using an app on your smart phone which is interfacing with the stores POS database, keeping a running total for the customer to know where they are in their budget.

When the order is done, the cart passes over a scale and is weighed.  The cart is subtracted and the total weight of the order is compared to the calculated weight and if within a specific variance, the order completes to a pre-registered CC and out the door the shopper goes.  All possible with today’s technologies, not to mention several years ago.

From another reader:

OMG.  That sound you hear is a giant sucking sound coming from executives of major grocery retailers who just realized they have seen the future, and they're not in it!


MNB reader Joe Axford wrote:

One word - WOW!


MNB reader Jim Huey wrote:

It’s hard to say from watching the commercial but if I understood right cameras tell a CPU if something is removed from a shelf and I’m guessing sensors know which app is closest? If this is the case I wonder what will happen if it is busy and I reach in front of someone else to get my item? Also wonder what happens when someone inevitably places an item back in the wrong place? I’m sure Amazon will figure this out if they haven’t already. My biggest question is when will there be one where I live? Can’t wait to learn more details.

And from MNB reader Rich Richardson:

Just waiting and watching to see how many of the 2K stores Jeff has announced will leverage this technology.

It would no doubt add a whole new meaning to “convenience store”…

We're all waiting and watching to see what happens next. Probably won't have to wait long.
KC's View: