You've already chosen your study programme? Apply online now.

Shopping without cashiers – How Amazon Go revolutionises the shopping experience

  -   19. March 2017
Source: StockSnap/

‘What would shopping look like if you could walk into a store, grab what you want and just go?’ This is what amazon thought of 4 years ago. Now the online shopping giant is about to open the doors to its first supermarket ‘amazon go’ in Seattle. Amazon entered the food business already with its service ‘amazon fresh’, where you order the food online and amazon will ship it to your home. The new supermarket idea is the result of finding that a lot of groceries are not suited for online postal shopping. The system in the new ‘amazon go’ supermarkets is simple: Customers are able to walk into the supermarket, shop what they like and then just check out without standing in line. The only thing they have to do is to have an amazon account and download the amazon go app and scan their phone when they enter and leave the store. The things they´ve shopped will automatically appear in their online shopping cart and will be subtracted from their amazon account.

The technology

The supermarket, which will open in Seattle, is one of the most modern supermarkets in the world. The fascinating but at the same time shocking thing about this new modern supermarket is everything you take out of the shelves in the supermarket will automatically be registered in your online shopping basket. Every water bottle, every sandwich or juice will appear online on your amazon account. But how does it work? Amazon keeps a low profile on the details of how this new technology works. They only mention key words like Learning algorithm and Sensor Fusion. That basically means that cameras and a combination of different sensors are feeding an algorithm, which should recognize which products the customers take from the shelves or which they put back.

Experts are sure that amazon uses a technology which recognises objects from different angles, similar to face-recognition-technology and models, which are similar to RFID, to identify the position of the customer and the product. Additional sensors can be used to define the weight of the products in the shelves and even more, the weight or height of the customer. Data on the customer plays a central role for the artificial intelligence of the learning algorithm and the scanning of the products. For example, if a customer takes a blue bottle out of the shelf, the cameras recognise a blue bottle and record that the customer keeps the product. But the cameras can’t capture the product exactly because another customer is in the way they use the customer data which says that the customer likes to buy the blue Poweraid and that it is located in this shelf. So the system adds the blue Poweraid to the shopping basket.

The patent

The patent from ReCode explains the technology in detail.

1. The items taken from the shelf can be identified based on the data amazon gets from a variety of input devices like cameras and pictures.

2. Other devices such as sensors, which measure the pressure and volume of an object

3. Customer data will be analysed if the object can’t be clearly identified by the sensors

To sum up, the amazon go technology can not only be used in supermarkets, it will simplify many branches such as fashion, electronics, cosmetics and books. The customer is reachable through the app and can be analysed through his data and amazon can collect this data in a database to make it even more simple for the customer. Amazon plans to open up more than 2000 stores in the US in the upcoming years and revolutionise the shopping experience.

Who wrote it?

Patricia Hofmann

Patricia Hofmann studies at the European Management School in Mainz.


Silas Nikolaus
22-03-2017 20:54

I personally use Amazon quite a lot and follow the latest news and innovations. In my opinion the basic idea of cashless shopping is pretty good. It definitely makes life easier and shopping more convenient. Nevertheless, we should all consider the consequences of this new era of digitalization. Data protection seems to be the smallest problem when thinking of cutting labor costs. By reducing cashiers Amazon is automatically reducing important jobs. Therefore, all aspects needs to be considered to overcome the critical factors involved.

Van Nguyen
22-03-2017 19:32

Since we are living in a hectic world, this idea sounds not so wrong. Able to walk into the supermarket, shop what I like and then just check out without standing in line, there is nothing more to say. This is pure convenience. The faster processes gets, the easier our life gets. Time is money. However, again the issue of storing data can be a critical point. People will not be really pleased to know that amazon has got their date stored and maybe selling it to other companies. But this idea is just an option, no one is forced to use amazon go. For me, if everything can be done faster why not?

Julia Ursu
22-03-2017 16:03

Your article was really interesting to read. I am personally a big fan of amazon and I purchase often there. Now that they deliver as well groceries makes amazon even more interesting I guess. But to be honest, the fact that it is not totally clear how this technology works seems a bit strange for me. Nevertheless, I think that this innovations is something really nice what makes our lifes easier. Amazon seems to be very confident with their new idea. I am curious about the future of amazon. It would be nice if they could implement as well some new shopping experiences in Germany. But what would happen with the “traditional” supermarkets if amazon go will be introduced not only in Seatle?

Toni Dang
21-03-2017 16:20

As a amazon User i look forward to this invention. But I think that amazon have to face some security challenges or at least reassure the costumer that they can protect our personaldata and are immun against hacking.If they can proof us that they can face these challenges I think this will be the new way of shopping.

Mia Zerwas
21-03-2017 15:05

After self-checkout services this will be the next innovative shopping experience. But in my opinion..or at least I hope so.. shopping will further develop in the direction of virtual shops like in the example of Tesco: creating virtual shelves in train stations where you can scan QR-codes and your items will be delivered to your home. This would provide two convenient solutions: waiting time could be used and you don't have to transport your groceries.

Franziska Blum
21-03-2017 14:58

If I think about shopping in this way, I have several,concerned. First, not everyone has an Amazon account and not everyone wants to create one for this shopping. And how would you stop people not having one to go in and just take things? Do you always have to be online in your profile when you go shopping in this store? Also, what would happen if, for example, a package of chopped nuts, which are not very heavy, falls from the shelf? Will it accidentally be added to a customers shopping bag? Maybe Amazon has a well working solution for all these things. At the moment, I am rather sceptical if this concept will work with all the limitations like security issues, functionality, etc. As Katharina said, the first store will show if it works or not. I am curious about it!

Isabelle Hachenberg
21-03-2017 14:50

I totally agree to all your points, Marie! At first, cashless shopping seems to be convenient for the customer. But with a closer look issues are coming up. In a world where technology is slowly taking over, we cannot avoid it to replace human workforce. Up to now it was mostly the case, that when technological progress made work unnecessary, other jobs arouse. I read an article about the consequences of digitalization for employment, where scientists doubted that in this age it will be easy to create other jobs. Cashless shopping would be just one example for that issue. Still, the concept, Patricia introduced in her post sounds absolutely interesting to my mind and I would like to try this new innovation of Amazon, after the technology is fully developed and our data is safe!

Theresa Möhn
21-03-2017 13:34

Amazon seems to do a great job in vertical integration and acquisition of new clients. I like the basic idea of cashless shopping: it definitely makes life easier. Nevertheless we should all consider the consequences of this new era of digitalization. Data protection seems to be the smallest problem when thinking of cutting labour costs. By reducing cashiers Amazon is automatically reducing important jobs. The gap between rich and poor will therefore increase as well. Sure innovations like Amazon is working on will simplify our everyday life- but at which price?

Samantha Beidinger
20-03-2017 16:50

I totally agree with the comments and issues of my fellow students. I always have been a fan of amazon and for me personally, cashless shopping is a great innovation as I barely take cash with me and pay most of the time with atm card. This innovation makes shopping definitely more convenient as standing in line and waiting for the cashier is annoying and, to be honest, a waste of time. However, it is true that there are also a lot of disadvantages, but I think it depends on the point of view. Every company is collecting and using our data to provide more individual advertisement. Some people like it and some don’t. In my opinion, amazon is doing a great job and I would love to go shopping absolutely cashless, even though I think this idea is still capable of improvement.

Marie Schubert
20-03-2017 14:10

I already heard about the future vision of cashless shopping and it is very interesting to read that it developed that far. It definitely increases consumer convenience and shopping might go quicker and easier. This innovation has a long list of advantages. However, technology is again replacing people. Jobs like cashiers are not needed anymore which might have an enormous impact on employment rates all over the world. There are so many supermarkets employing so many cashiers and theses job should sometimes be unnecessary? Another question which I ask myself: What about the great variety on deli counters for fish, meat or cheese? How can 120 grams of ham be identified? Will it influence the variety? In addition, I am also quite sceptical towards data privacy. What is happening with the information that I like to buy Gouda cheese or wholegrain bread? Do I allow Amazon to sell this data for perfectly adjusted advertisement to my needs when using this service? Would that be bad? To my opinion, it would not really be bad – but rather really scary that companies do know so many personal details. Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages I cannot really decide if it is good or bad – I am somewhere in between.

Katharina Blanckart
20-03-2017 11:52

When closely observing Amazon’s development of offered products and services this new innovation does not come entirely unexpected. The initial thought behind the idea: cashless shopping – and everybody will react ‘Yes why not, how convenient!’ and I have to agree, the annoying search for some coins in your wallet or getting too many of these coins back is something most people could renounce well. If people show the same willingness when it comes to tracking their groceries shopping is rather doubtful. By accepting the convenience of not needing to take cash with you or even your credit cards you also give your consent that amazon will know about every single sandwich, water bottle and chocolate bar you purchase. The consequences are conceivable: more induvial adjusted advertisement, product suggestions and the list does not end. The pilot project of shops in the US will show the goods and limitations of this innovation.

Beate Gaitzsch
20-03-2017 11:34

This looks like the new kind of shopping, which will become very important in the future. By combining real-life shopping with an online App, it is the perfect mix for our digital world. Moreover, it also supports people's lifestyle, which is becoming more hectic. Standing in line and waiting to pay can be really annoying, also for me. Since most people have and will have a smartphone it is accessible by the majority of us, which can make it highly efficient. However, there will probably many people against it, since Amazon is known for storing data and selling it to other companies. Additionally, it still needs to be seen if the technology works without hitches, such as adding the wrong product to the basket. But in general I would say that this system can become popular worldwide in the near future.



Corporate Partners


European Mangement School © 2018 | Imprint | Data Protection