Amazon Fresh Ditches Just Walk Out Technology

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amazon just walk out

Amazon has confirmed that it will discontinue its Just Walk Out tech in an effort to revamp its supermarket experience.

The Just Walk Out tech allowed customers to enter an Amazon Fresh store, grab groceries and leave, able to skip the checkout process and queuing. The charge would then later appear on the customer's Amazon account. 

Amazon Just Walk Out technology works through a combination of cameras, sensors and scales. Customers typically enter the store using a phone app or scan a code that links them to their payment method.

The main input comes from the store being equipped with a network of cameras and shelves fitted with weight sensors. As a customer picks up an item, the cameras and sensors identify it and add it to a virtual shopping cart.

Putting an item back removes it from the cart. Upon leaving the store, the system automatically charges the customer's account for the items in their virtual cart.

Read: Pay by Palm: Amazon’s Biometric Palm Scanners are Coming to a Store Near You

However, unbeknownst to many, the Just Walk Out technology was relying on more than 1000 workers in India who were watching the footage to ensure the checkouts were accurate.

The Information alleges that over 70% of sales relied on these human video reviewers. This essentially outsourced the usual role of the in-store cashier overseas in order to create the sense of a technologically advanced ‘supermarket of the future’.

A spokesperson for Amazon denied the claim that sales relied on human reviews and stated that the team in India is primarily focused on training the AI model used by the technology.

Amazon Fresh Unable to Take Off

Though Just Walk Out technology was designed to streamline and revolutionize the grocery shopping experience, it never really took off.

Shoppers were reluctant to change their shopping habits and did not find a compelling reason to choose Amazon Fresh over established grocery stores. The grocery market is already crowded with established players that have built up brand loyalty programs. Amazon Fresh needs to find a way to stand out and offer a clear advantage to win over customers.

Tech advancements have also backfired, with customers uncomfortable with the extensive use of cameras and the idea of being constantly tracked throughout their shopping trips.

amazon fresh unable to take off

The use of technology is also a barrier to entry for older people who are less tech-savvy or people simply confused about how to shop there. The marketing for physical Amazon Fresh stores has not been comprehensive, leaving even tech-savvy shoppers unaware of the stores' existence or confused about how they work.

There are currently 44 Amazon Fresh stores across the US. Amazon has announced that they will be switching to a focus on ‘Dash Carts’. Dash Carts are trolleys fitted with a self-scan device as well as an inbuilt scale and touchscreen for live receipts. 

Amazon has said they will continue to operate the Just Walk Out technology in their UK stores for now. There are currently 20 Amazon Fresh stores left around London, though many have permanently closed including their first store which opened in Ealing in 2021.

Read: Amazon Opens Fully Automated Grocery Store

Amazon's decision to ditch Just Walk Out technology in the US highlights the complexities of implementing futuristic shopping experiences. While the concept offered convenience, the reliance on a hidden workforce of over 1,000 overseas workers as well as privacy concerns ultimately outweighed its benefits. This has also raised questions about transparency in technological advancements and the potential ethical implications of outsourcing labour behind the scenes. 

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