The second location of the Amazon Go checkout-free concept is here, and while the store didn’t feature too many significant changes from the original, how quickly it opened points to the potential for Amazon to expand quickly.
The second location at the base of the Madison Centre office tower, in the heart of Seattle’s central business district, opened Monday, about seven months after the debut of the original Amazon Go store. When GeekWire visited the store in the morning, we weren’t greeted by the long lines and fanfare that came with the original store’s debut.
While the technology behind the concept and the menu at the store are always changing and evolving, there’s no major changes between stores one and two, Dilip Kumar, vice president of technology for Amazon Go and Amazon Books, said in an interview with GeekWire at the store. The second time around, Amazon didn’t need a year of beta testing to get everything working just right.
“The first store, we opened it in beta for about a year, and the reason had little to do with the technology and more to do with the fact that we thought that we would need to open it out to the public, but the demand from the Amazon population itself was substantial enough for us to be able to learn whatever we needed to,” Kumar said. “The second store, we could just piggyback off of those learnings plus the things that we’re doing here now.”
Amazon will look to piggyback more off its first two stores as the company has confirmed future openings in Chicago and San Francisco. Kumar wouldn’t spill the beans on future expansion plans beyond that.
The second store doesn’t have a kitchen on location like the original. Instead, Amazon workers prepare food in an off-site kitchen, which makes sense if the company wants to continue expanding Amazon Go in its hometown.
Store number two is slightly smaller than the original location — 1,450 square feet versus 1,800 square feet — with a familiar design and layout. The new location doesn’t have alcohol and it went light on grocery essentials in favor of keeping items like sandwiches and salads, meal kits and snacks at the forefront.
The cashier-free store was pretty heavily staffed, with employees sometimes outnumbering customers. People stocked shelves, worked security and hung around outside the store to explain the concept and get people to come in. When GeekWire visited there was a slow, but steady stream of customers coming in and out.
Despite the well publicized roll out of Amazon Go, numerous customers still needed to be told how it works. A couple were surprised to learn that after picking up items they could just walk out and the order would be charged automatically.
The store relies heavily on the Amazon Go smartphone app. Customers scan a unique QR code within the app before passing through a set of glass doors, similar to the gates Amazon employees go through when entering their office buildings every morning. A vast array of overhead cameras and weight sensors in the shelves automatically track what people pick up and take from the store.
When customers leave, they just walk out. Amazon Go’s systems automatically debit their accounts for the items they take, sending the receipt to the app. By logging shoppers in at the entrance, then tracking their actions in the store, the system eliminates the need for traditional checkout registers and checkout workers along with them.