Global giants Amazon have continued to expand their reach in the UK by launching the first of their Amazon Fresh branded grocery stores in a leafy suburb of London. This isn’t simply a copy of a Tesco Local store though, Amazon has taken a giant step into the future of food shopping by making the store checkout and cash-free.
London was a natural first location in the UK for a physical Amazon Fresh store that relies on their Just Walk Out Technology which is described as being in the same family as those of self-driving cars. The store being so brightly lit is no coincidence as the technology relies on an array of cameras suspended from the ceiling that track both people and products. You have to “log in” to the store by scanning the app which contains your details and will connect the app login and the items you pick up. The patent for the technology refers to user information but what exactly does this entail?
But should this be something that worries the average shopper? Other than the potential to persuade you to spend more, probably not. All the data will be covered by UK laws including GDPR and Amazon claim they will only retain this data for 30 days.
This will not persuade everyone though. Silkie Carlo the director of Big Brother Watch, a UK based civil liberties and privacy campaign group, called the Amazon Fresh London store “a dystopian, total-surveillance shopping experience.”
“Amazon’s intense tracking of shoppers will create larger personal data footprints than any other retailer. Customers deserve to know how and by whom these records and analytics could be used.”Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch
Undoubtedly Amazon will use the data to stock the most popular products and have more efficiency with quantities, they may even use the data to connect other types of product you may buy together but traditional supermarkets do this already. The technology doesn’t even use facial recognition so what is their end goal?
Well, Amazon Fresh is already planning more stores in London and they’ve created their own range of items but the real money maker will be selling off their technology to the market leaders. Amazon is pretty content to dominate the online world and leave traditional retailers to fight over real-world scraps. This store is essentially a big tech demonstration and if Amazon can license their technology to the major chains then they can have an additional source of income without exposing themselves to the risks of bricks and mortar stores.
With the amount of capital they possess, Amazon could quite easily buy out one of the UK supermarket chains but partnerships seem the more likely route. They already work with Morrisons to supply items for the online version of Amazon Fresh which currently delivers across London and the south-east of England.
Most supermarkets already have some form of scan and shop option using an app but the big difference here is that it requires manual input. Of course, there will be logistics to overcome, stores will need to be adapted and solutions will need to be found for technophobes but the benefits are clear. Checkout staff won’t be required so wage bills can be slashed and it will reduce theft dramatically (at least until somebody works out how to play the system). Hard-up students could even tie their accounts to their parents to pay for their weekly shop.
The pandemic has shown how the world is willing to adapt to new solutions and many will be curious to try out Amazon Fresh if it pops up in their area of London but any doubters of the technology may have to get over their fears if Jeff Bezos is hell-bent on dominating another market.
How do you feel about the new Amazon Fresh store in London? Do you have a technology or data protection matter you need help with? Alston Asquith has offices in London and Hertfordshire and can arrange a call to provide some initial advice.
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