How Amazon, Whole Foods and Kroger are using cashierless stores and carts


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  • Large retailers are experimenting with cashier-less store experiences.
  • These computer vision-based shopping experiences have been in development for years.
  • Currently, Amazon, Kroger, Whole Foods Market, and Albertsons are toying with this technology.

Retail giants have increasingly taken advantage of in-store technology that allows customers to purchase products without queuing for the cashier. By combining advances in artificial intelligence and computer vision, cameras and sensors, and deep learning algorithms, these locations allow visitors to shop by simply picking up goods or placing products. in their carts, which completely eliminates the need for a cash register.

The trend seems to be spreading through the

retail business

. Kroger and Albertsons have partnered with smart cart startup Veeve for a pilot that has rolled out to select stores. Amazon Go stores began opening to the public in 2018. Whole Foods Market, Amazon’s grocery acquisition, just launched its first store in DC that uses its parent company’s “Just Walk Out” technology. And while the actual number of stores offering cashier-less experiences in the United States remains low, the adoption of this technology by large retailers indicates that the technology is here to stay.

Part of the reason for the slow introduction of cashierless experiences is that the technology is expensive and complicated. These stores rely on a network of AI-powered cameras and weight sensors, installed either in the store’s ceiling, shelves, or carts.

These systems can track the location of different items, noting when a customer removes or replaces products from shelves. They also record prices, check out a customer’s cart, and send receipts at the end of a shopping trip.

Amazon has long touted computer vision technology as a method to achieve “a checkout experience without a checkout or cashier.”

“While they haven’t revealed too much of their technological advancements, it appears that Amazon is planning to put cameras at the heart of their operational strategy,” wrote Alex Polacco, professor of management at St. Cloud and MBA graduate Kayla Backes. a 2017 article published in the Journal of business and management.

But the technology behind the company just get out service, Dash Carts, and Amazon Go went through many iterations before hitting stores.

In the 2021 book “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire”, journalist Brad Stone reported that the team behind Amazon Go was struggling in early 2016 after an “unfortunate demonstration” failed. failed to impress then-CEO Jeff. Bezos and his team S.

Bezos once “imagined thousands of Amazon Go stores, in urban areas across the country.” Instead, Amazon Go got off to a slower start than its founder originally anticipated, starting with a handful of stores.

Stone wrote that Amazon had successfully licensed its Just Walk Out service to a number of other retailers. Now Whole Foods Market has been added to this list. The grocery chain described this technology as incorporation “a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning” – similar to what you would find in self-driving cars. “

But Amazon and Whole Foods aren’t the only players in town when it comes to cashierless technology. Other retailers have adopted start-up technology that doesn’t require the addition of overhead cameras.

Instacart recently acquired smart cart manufacturer Caper. Amazon alumni Shariq Siddiqui and Umer Sadiq also founded a smart cart startup called Veeve. The business took off during the pandemic, partnering with big-name customers like Kroger and Albertsons.

While Amazon’s Just Walk Out services feature cameras and sensors plugged into store ceilings and shelves, Caper and Veeve stock their barcode scanners and cameras in their specialty shopping carts.

But while cashierless technology has taken many forms, the principle remains the same.

“What we’re really doing is looking at the customer’s store,” Siddiqui previously told Insider.


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