Amazon on Wednesday said it's bringing its "Just Walk Out" shopping technology to two Whole Foods stores, giving it an opportunity to test the cashierless payment system in a larger retail space. Next year, with the system in place at stores in Washington, DC, and Sherman Oaks, Calif., shoppers will have the option to skip the checkout line.
Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, the tech giant first introduced the "Just Walk Out" system at its first Amazon Go store in 2016. The system uses computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to eliminate checkout lines. Upon entering a Whole Foods store, customers will have three ways to begin using the "Just Walk Out" system -- they can scan the QR code in the Whole Foods Market or Amazon app, hover their palm using Amazon One, or insert a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account. After that, customers can simply pick up what they want, check out in the same way they checked in, and then walk out. Their credit cards are then charged for the purchases, and they can find a receipt in the Whole Foods Market app.
One of the shortcomings of Amazon's system is that customers must have an Amazon account to use it. Along the same lines, it isn't available to shoppers who want to use some other method of payment, such as cash, prepaid cards, food stamp benefits via an EBT card, or a gift card. Those Whole Foods shoppers will have to use the self-checkout lanes.
In its announcement Wednesday, Amazon suggested it could add the "Just Walk Out" system to other Whole Foods locations if it's well received. "For now we're excited to see how customers like being able to skip the checkout and use Just Walk Out Shopping when we open our doors in Sherman Oaks and Washington, D.C. next year, and we'll go from there," the company said.
Since launching its first Amazon Go store, Amazon has deployed "Just Walk Out" in other stores in the US and the UK, and it's made the cashierless system available to third-party retailers. Amazon opened its first full-sized Amazon Go grocery store in 2020 in Seattle.
Some in the grocery industry contend that Amazon's "Just Walk Out" system isn't well-suited for grocery chains with pre-existing, large storefronts. The Whole Foods trials could help Amazon figure out how to overcome that issue. In the meantime, a handful of startups are already working with other retailers to implement autonomous checkout services. Grabango, for instance, last year launched its checkout-free system at a Giant Eagle store in Pennsylvania. The large grocery chain is now deploying the technology at other locations.