This past Monday, Amazon opened it’s first retail store outside its home state (Washington). I visited yesterday and recorded my observations to satisfy your curiosity.

Finding the store was not as easy as I thought it would be: Google Maps was no help and seemed to be in denial…

Surprise #1: Size

Expecting something like the Venturebeat article image, I was underwhelmed by the curb appeal of this store. It only had two exterior windows and was about twice as deep (see above street-view pic). This store was smaller than most Chicago apartments. I thought I would bump into other shoppers and was constantly saying ‘excuse me,’ even though there couldn’t have been more than 25 people in the store with me.

Surprise #2: Number of associates

There were at least 8 associates sporting bright orange sweatshirts inside the small store footprint and another 6 outside the barriers: three on the street, one by the exit and one at each of two entrances. Associates inside were restocking by hand, placing each item carefully on shelf. I immediately thought that this must be about the same number of employees it takes to staff a grocer that is probably 25x the size.

Two Amazon Go associates restock a shelf.
Two Amazon Go associates restock a shelf.

Surprise #3: Exclusivity

esko ad

I’m a little bit used to browsing anonymously, whether online or in retail stores. I can look around and not have to reveal who I am or even talk to anyone. Perhaps this is a false sense of online anonymity…still, no one can enter the Go store without downloading the Amazon Go app on their phones, and registering or signing in to their Amazon account. When I scanned and entered, I have to admit I did feel like I was ‘in’ on the action, part of an exclusive group.

Surprise #4: Merchandise mix

This was not such a surprise to me, but still…The store was 40% private label merchandise: fresh food, meal kits, packaged snacks, and even Amazon Go swag. Yes they had mugs you can purchase that proclaim the no-checkout value proposition.

A case of private label fresh products.
A case of private label fresh products.

Also, the brands represented were only highly-recognizable, mostly premium brands. These brands command consumer attention and margin (Noosa, Oui, Chobani, La Croix, Häagen-Dazs, Halo Top, etc.).

Reducing the options to “most desirable brands” could help consumers make decisions faster and optimize their trip time.

The entire frozen section at Amazon Go Chicago.
The entire frozen section at Amazon Go Chicago.

Surprise #5: Trip time

When I looked at my receipt, I was thinking I just wanted to see if it was accurate. But, the first thing I saw was right under the date: my trip time.

My receipt.
My receipt.

My trip time was under 5 minutes. This shocked me.

I spent three of those minutes looking around, snapping pics for this post, and probably only a little over 1 minute thinking about what I’d buy.

Because Amazon placed this stat right at the top of my receipt, they seem to be making their value proposition clear: unlike traditional retailers who want you to stay in the store longer, knowing you’ll buy more, they want to give you the most efficient trip possible.

They succeeded.

PS: It’s not just for “the millennial generation.”

The shopper profile was diverse - not just millennial….
The shopper profile was diverse – not just millennial….
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