Amazon's Just Walk Out Payments Technology
Online or offline, everybody loves a seamless checkout experience. The one-click purchase concept may be as close as e-commerce can come to the event horizon of seamlessness, but brick-and-mortar stores are still finding ways to eliminate friction with things like self-checkout and contactless payments.
Now Amazon is getting increasingly serious about in-person retail, and don’t go looking to them for more incremental improvements. They’re out to eliminate checkout entirely—or at least, make it completely invisible and unobtrusive to the customer. What do retailers need to know about Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology?
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They say that Alexander the Great cried when he realized there were no more realms left for him to conquer, but it doesn’t look like the Bezos household will be asking Alexa to stock up on Kleenex anytime soon.
Amazon’s first big leap from cyberspace to a town near you happened when they bought Whole Foods and its hundreds of brick-and-mortar grocery stores, but they haven’t stopped there.
Amazon has been testing new shopping and checkout technologies in various physical locations bearing their own brand, such as their Amazon Fresh grocery stores, their now-defunct bookstores, and their fully automated Amazon Go convenience stores.
Having proven the viability of checkout-free shopping in their own stores, Amazon is now offering to provide the service to other retailers. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology uses a variety of hardware and software solutions to provide a truly seamless in-person shopping experience, but it’s understandable that merchants would have a lot of questions about exactly how this technology works, how accurate and secure it is, and whether it’s a good idea for every type of retail store. Let’s take a closer look.
What is Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology?
Just Walk Out is a customer experience technology, provided by Amazon, that allows shoppers to walk into a store, pick up all of the items they want, and walk right out—no lines, no checkout. Their purchases are automatically tallied and charged.
According to 6 out of 10 consumers, waiting in checkout lines is the worst thing about in-person shopping. By eliminating this process, Just Walk Out lets customers focus on browsing and selecting their purchases, and when they’re ready to go, they can...just walk out.
How Does Just Walk Out Work?
Just Walk Out uses a variety of overlapping technologies to ensure that no items or payments are inadvertently missed.
For starters, Just Walk Out can let customers walk out without stopping to pay because it collects their payment information upon entry.
There are three payment options. Customers can use an app—either Amazon One, an identity verification service that uses biometrics (a palm print) to authorize payments, or a retailer-branded app. The third option is to provide a debit or credit card.
Once inside, the customer can pick up (and put back) any items they want. Just Walk Out uses high-resolution cameras, shelf sensors, and artificial intelligence algorithms to determine what each customer is carrying as they leave the store, and charges them accordingly.
Just Walk Out typically uses the Amazon Web Services cloud to manage the data involved in these operations, but large or remote stores that would experience greater efficiency with on-site data storage can choose that as an option.
Where is Just Walk Out Currently in Use?
Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology can be experienced firsthand at various locations, but you might have an easier time finding them if you’re in a major metropolitan area.
Here are a few places where Just Walk Out is already in use:
- Amazon Fresh, which has about 40 locations, is introducing Just Walk Out technology, starting with stores in Virginia and Washington.
- Amazon Go is designed around the Just Walk Out concept and offers frictionless shopping at all of its nearly 30 stores.
- Climate Pledge Arena, home to the Seattle Kraken, Seattle Storm, and other sports teams, uses Just Walk Out in several of its concession stands.
- Hudson, a retailer that operates newsstands, cafes, and convenience stores out of almost 90 airports in North America, has started using Just Walk Out at various locations.
- Lumen Field, the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium, offers Just Walk Out at a snack shop in their new District Market area.
- TD Garden, home arena for the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics, uses Just Walk Out at their MRKT food and beverage stores.
What are the Benefits of Just Walk Out?
The main selling point of Just Walk Out is that it’s fast and friction-free, leading to better customer experiences that make people more likely to keep coming back to your store.
Amazon emphasizes the fact that Just Walk Out has already been tested and proven in their own stores, and that they are continually reviewing and optimizing the technology to ensure greater accuracy and security.
They also point out that Just Walk Out has been tried out for various store formats and product types, and even small objects are capably handled by their multi-part detection system. Amazon being Amazon, their capacity to scale the service up to fit the needs of large enterprises is well-assured.
One notable side benefit of Just Walk Out is that it provides merchants with lots of analytics related to customer behavior. This can lead to actionable insights for optimizing inventory management, marketing, display schematics, staff scheduling, and more.
One unanswered question for many merchants is how Just Walk Out will impact shoplifting and related forms of shrinkage. With Just Walk Out, the concept of shoplifting is almost moot—the customer is expected to stroll brazenly out of the store with their merchandise, and it’s the merchant’s responsibility to use the technology to charge them correctly.
Amazon’s detection system is designed to be highly accurate, but dedicated fraudsters have ways of finding exploits.
Hacked apps and stolen credit cards could be used to gain entry, and then the fraudster is free to walk out with everything they can carry. It may take some time before third-party data provides a clear and objective picture of the risks associated with Just Walk Out, but it’s also worth remembering that no checkout system can ever be perfectly secure.
The early adoption of Just Walk Out by travel and concession stores illustrates some of the ideal uses cases for Just Walk Out. Customers everywhere prefer a fast and seamless shopping experience, but few will appreciate it more than harried shoppers on a tight schedule. When long lines lead to lost sales, Just Walk Out might be just the solution.