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Amazon’s cashierless retail is going big

Amazon is said to be testing applications of its automated store technology for larger retailers. Currently, the technology is only applied to the seven C-store size Amazon Go stores, located in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the online retail giant is experimenting with the technology in Seattle in a larger space formatted like a big store. A lot of speculation emerged around whether the e-commerce giant would aim at integrating technology its own-grocery-store chain, Whole Foods, although Amazon has previously stated it had no intention to do so. Whole Foods stores, as of 2017, have an average surface of 40,000 square feet, while Amazon Go stores are all smaller than 2,300 square feet — more convenience store than full-scale fresh grocery. Amazon reportedly also aims at expending its convenience store chain by opening 3000 Amazon Go stores by 2021.

It has become increasingly clear that cashierless technology will be a part of the future of retail. Retailers are implementing various in-store technology allowing customers to purchase items on their smartphone, skipping the checkout lines. For example, Nike’s instant purchase, which was recently introduced in its new flagship store in Manhattan. The checkout method’s app allows customers to scan an item’s barcode, before grabbing a bag and leaving hangers at a small kiosk. In October, Walmart announced it was working on a store operating on similar technology to Amazon Go’s. The experimental offering would be available only to members of its exclusive Sam’s Club subsidiary. The trial store, ‘Sam’s Club Now’, opened in Dallas in November.

The Amazon Go systems track what shoppers pick from shelves and charges them automatically when they leave a store. The system relies on an extensive network of cameras, sensors and software. Although the technology functions well in its current format, its application to bigger spaces, with higher ceilings, more people moving around and a bigger quantity and variety of products, poses new challenges, meaning it could take time to roll out the systems at larger stores.