Amazon's latest Experimental Go Convenience Store today opens in San Francisco, adding Bay Area City third after Chicago and Seattle…
Amazon’s latest Experimental Go Convenience Store today opens in San Francisco, adding Bay Area City third after Chicago and Seattle in the company’s ongoing expansion exchange. The deal, located in the corners of California and Battery in the city’s financial district, is modeled roughly like the five existing sites. It largely serves food, snacks and drinks, focusing on Amazon’s own range of sandwiches, salads and meal sets. But the great innovation is the complete removal of the cash register.
Instead of standing in line and paying a treasurer, cameras and sensors track your movements through the store after scanning your Amazon account at the front and monitoring when taking items from shelves. When you leave you are charged for what you have received and received a digital receipt via Amazon’s standalone Go app. I took a tour of 2,300 square feet of space last week, when its windows were covered and its existence largely a secret until San Francisco Chronicle revealed the address on Thursday with property records.
The interior is a very nice convenience store with a few seating and microwaves up to heat frozen food and eat if you choose it. As for the checkout, everything worked as advertised. I used the Amazon Go app to go through a set of automated doors near the front, and from there I picked up an Amazon-made chicken bánh mì sandwich and went straight out without any problems.
The store’s motto is “Good Food Fast”, and the app even tracks how much time you spent during each visit as a kind of boast of the efficiency of the cash-modular model. Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s Vice President of Technology for Amazon Go, told me that the core of the Go model is to save time on people. “How crowded [the store] is no longer is a function of how long it will take,” Kumar told me. With Go Stores, the company wants to eliminate the concept of a morning or lunch stop, as well as the idea that you have to limit what you buy and where you eat based on how much time you have to wait in a row, order an order, and wait for it to be prepared.
It is apparent from the store’s layout and the exclusive presentation that Amazon, at least in San Francisco, aggressively targets delicacies, cafes, casual lunches and drug stores with the Go model. Stored at the California Street site is virtually everything you find on a 7-Eleven, with a small and seemingly handpicked selection of goods that you can easily find on, for example, a Walgreens. For example, you can go to Go Store to buy a Pringles jar, or maybe a little chapstick, and choose from a fairly basic selection of cold medicine. You can also buy bread, milk and cheese.
But focus is more on the fresh food. The quality and selection of the finished food is designed to be broad and competitive with the lunch choice in the city center. Amazon has a staff of workers and a complete kitchen at the back of the store, and every day it makes fresh things that you may be willing to pay for ordered prices. It includes sushi, breakfast burritos, salads and an assortment of sandwiches, including snacks, sweets and desserts.
The company has stored the store of more expensive cakes from its Blue Apron Style, limited to online order until the launch of the first Go Store at the end of 2016. Amazon has also collaborated with Local Third Party Restaurants including La Boulangerie Bakery and South Indian restaurant chain Dosa, to break its inventory with pastries, yogurt, hummus and other options. It also collaborated with a local chocolate maker to create a San Francisco-centered brand of Amazon Go Chocolate.
Ultimately, Amazon hopes its cash-modular model proves sufficiently appropriate, and its food and product selection is appealing enough to pull people away from the tried and true chains we have become accustomed to. The company does not necessarily try to replace 7-pupils and walgreens in the world, at least not yet. And a go shop is far from a fast casual restaurant or a traditional restaurant with counters. Rather, at the moment, Go Shops seem to be an avenue for Amazon to create a stronger foothold in offline trade, just like the physical bookstores in Seattle and New York City and its acquired Whole Foods sites, it gives a strategic footprint in foods and paper books.
Of course, under the line, Amazon could use its Go model as a way to aggressively expand its brick and mortar operation if the stores prove to be particularly successful and capable of handling high volumes of shoppers . Bloomberg reported in September that the company plans to open thousands of sites over the next three years in what would be a remarkable escalation of Amazon’s offline retail competition with Walmart, grocery chains and even the traditional restaurant and fast food industries.
We’re not quite there yet. But Amazon begins to move faster, and in the process it turns from an e-commerce giant into a true, do-all-retail. The company has already planned its second San Francisco location in one place, basically around the corner from the present, on 98 Post Street. It will be slightly smaller than the first, and it will open in winter, says the company. Meanwhile, Amazon opens its third go shop at the Illinois Center 2019. It will provide a total of stores up to eight, with at least one location scheduled for New York City sometime next year.