Amazon started the ball rolling with their cashierless stores in Seattle and San Francisco; they’re now opening their fourth San Francisco store, all within blocks of one another. Reminiscent of Starbucks.
But, as a twist, there are other startup stores that are also opening as cashier-free in the same area, each with their own technology to display how they envision a convenience store of the future. According to the WSJ, there’s a “roughly one square-mile” in San Francisco’s business district that is “emerging as the battleground to eliminate retail’s centuries old checkout process and reinvent the way consumers shop.” As a result of Amazon’s first venture in 2018, a number of challengers have paved the way for new opportunities for grab and go shoppers. Many of the startups, such as Zippin and Standard Cognition, are using technology similar to that of Amazon’s with camera systems powered by “computer vision and machine learning software” (ref WSJ) that track people as they take items off the shelves. The automation of the shopping cart is also underway, in order to avoid a costly store overhaul. All the while, the startups are pitching their technology to grocery chains, sports stadiums and convenience stores with promises of automating the check-out procedure, reducing theft and improving profit margins. It’s also expected that Amazon will eventually license its technology to retailers and others. Anticipating this move, some startups are already pitching themselves as a smarter alternative. Zippin CEO says, “We don’t compete with our customers, and that’s a big advantage when we pitch to retailers.” However, making a challenge to Amazon is not without some tall costs, as the large company can easily absorb the costs associated with building out the technology and undercutting the competition. It’s an area that we will continue to follow and discuss, as things play out in this arena.
ALL THE MOVING PARTS . . . the winners will certainly be those who can make all those parts work together. . .