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Amazon Go meets Chicago

A new standard for customer service has arrived in Chicago.  Amazon opened their fourth Amazon Go store in the Chicago Loop business district, exporting the  “Just walk out” model beyond Seattle for the first time.

Like the other Amazon Go stores, the layout is compact and the offer is tightly curated:  ready to eat foods, meal kits, beverages, snacks, grab and go bakery items and a small selection of fresh produce, household products and health care items.  They’ve added selections here from popular local food providers like Farmer’s Fridge that are familiar to the Chicago consumer base.   Everything is packaged, prepared off site and delivered daily to the store.  Pricing is attractive compared to competitor offerings – A Meal kit that serves 2 for $15.99, a bottle of Kombucha for $3.49.   Customers we talked to seemed pleased with the food offering overall but were surprised that there were no items from Whole Foods (guacamole was a big personal miss for me!)

Plenty of staff is on hand to guide customers, answer questions and restock shelves.  There is a handy condiment station by the exit where you can microwave your food, wash your hands, grab a glass of water, utensils and napkins before you head back to the office or off to catch a train.    A solid, well executed store overall.

But it’s the  “Just Walk Out” experience that is the true differentiator here:  once you download the Amazon Go app the shopping process is simple.   Scan the barcode in the app to enter the shop, grab a bag, shop your items and leave.  It’s very quick.  There is no line!  The technology tracking the customer journey and purchases is invisible but somehow extremely accurate, able to support typical shopping behaviors where customers continuously pick up product, return some to the shelf and put other products in their bag or just carry them out of the store.   Upon exiting, a notification is sent to your phone reminding you of the short time actually spent in the store – under 3 minutes for our visit. A receipt shows up in your app.

Amazon has again set a new bar for service expectations.   No line is a compelling alternative to a clunky and confusing self-checkout terminal or a long line at competing pharmacies, convenience stores or take-out restaurants in the area.  For a quick meal or necessity, why would a time-pressed consumer go anywhere else?

By Mara Devitt


McMillanDoolittle is a premier international retail consultancy bringing deep experience with world class clients. Our partners have extensive experience interpreting the retail marketplace and converting insights into successful strategies. We help clients develop innovative solutions in strategy development, the customer experience, new concepts, brand performance, retail performance improvement and retail intelligence services.

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