Amazon go, I miss you already.
Amazon’s urban campus in Seattle is impressive, much like Mr.Cadbury's Bournville, Jeff Bezos’s vision for a supportive local community is palpable. In the lobby underneath the amazon spheres is a museum space dedicated to the self proclaimed long term commitment Amazon gives the city of Seattle. The spheres themselves are a monumental display of steel and glass promising an exclusive (to Amazonians & their families) inside world of tropical rain forests and sumptuous Verdant parlour, reminiscent of a 1980’s sci-fi movie about life off-earth, a mission to a far flung galaxy. Amazon workers peered down at me as I leered up at them, in the end not sure who was watching who or why, as they ruminated over their nature immersion in the heart of the city.
Amazon claims to want to partner and build relationships to become part of the fabric of Seattle. I believe the promise as I read about FareStart empowering local people who are living in poverty through job training in the culinary world. Staying in the Pacific North West for a few days I am struck by the obvious chasm between haves and have nots, so this seems right and proper.
Adjacent to the spheres at ground level is the Amazon Go store.The first thing I notice is the civilised queueing, eager early adopters, polite, yet anxious to get inside, it was raining. Next to me was an Amazon executive on lunch break, behind her a party of business people from Spain just passing, diverse segmentation that’s for sure. More families than I imagined and certainly more popular as a spectacle than a shop.
An inconspicuous looking convenience store with a glass top to bottom window wall, through which can be seen busy staff members preparing food, delicately filling with precision like Din Tai Fung, some theatre vying with light on glass reflection and window posters shouting “get the app to enter” and “now open 7am to 9pm, Monday to Friday”.
Passing another “No lines, no checkout. (No. Seriously.)” I can hardly contain my excitement, this is no ordinary queue, the anticipation rivals a Disney ride, “Just walk out shopping”, I know, I know.
Finally my turn, a professional young man in an orange puffer jacket, asked if I had the app and was my account registered to it, “”uhh, yes I think so”
Clearly not, on first pass I am barred. The gate won't open, after a moment of angst, I try again to remember my amazon account password. All this way to see the store and I can’t remember my password, really!
Then it comes to me and the rock moves away, as if by magic, the gates open and I am served up inside.
I have been looking forward to this moment for weeks, I think the idea behind the Amazon go store is exciting and innovative and rule changing, for a long-time retail has been about friction, to a large extent it defines the operation. To take the effort away and just showcase product is a giant leap forward. Required now is an innovative brand or retailer to ensure the interior experience is as compelling as the promise. Right now, we have some way to go, it is remarkable, able to walk out with stuff without scanning or waiting, but that is only part of the experience.
A minor irritation for me, was being told by a fresh faced Amazonian that if I didn’t have US recognised ID I couldn’t stand near the alcohol bay, it was clearly a challenge for her and for me to resist being childish and just hanging there anyway, just to see what would happen next. I get the feeling If I persisted a large net would drop down, scoop me up and dispose of me down a convenient waste hatch, turning up weeks later bobbing about Puget sound, like as extra in the movie, Jaws.
That aside the experience was upbeat and fun, recognising familiar brands as I go from Green & Black’s to Lindt, to Amazon own label dark chocolate, who would think it.
The space is neatly divided between "eat now", dominated by chillers and "eat later," more dry goods and TV dinners (signed "quick cook")
The offer is short and on promise for convenience, expect, salads, cold drinks, bowls, Deli & dips, cheese, yoghurt and snack trays as well as wraps and sandwiches sub divided by ingredients from veggies to lamb, to beef to chicken and in the dry goods chips & snacks,
There is an annex to go and "eat now", but it is a small space crowded with college kids, attached to over size ruck sacks, beware as they turn with zero spatial awareness, you will be knocked over and your wrap tossed to the floor.
The messaging is all about, “we do the prep, you be the chef” “good food fast”, amd it that does, I can vouch for it, the wrap was tasty and the Amazon chocolate surprisingly good, amazon go delivers.
We are witnessing the beginning of a new era at retail, where convenience drives the offer and the offer is enabled by technology. The vision future combines technology with winning product, beautiful merchandising and service to make you melt so the future looks bright, well done Amazon go, you are onto something.
I look forward to stores that showcase like the spheres above, let’s be innovative with the spaces, inventory and engagement and let the technology deal with the operation.