Amazon ditches cashierless checkout system at its grocery stores

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Shoppers check out the sale items as they wait in line for the new Amazon Fresh store to open on E. Colorado Blvd in Pasadena, CA Thursday, September 15, 2022. 

Medianews Group/los Angeles Daily News Via Getty Images | Medianews Group | Getty Images

Amazon is removing its cashierless checkout systems at Fresh supermarkets in the U.S., the company confirmed, marking the latest recalibration of its grocery strategy.

The company won’t include the system, called Just Walk Out, in existing Fresh stores or in new locations slated to open later this year. It will instead rely more heavily on Dash Carts, which track and tally up items as shoppers place them in their carts, enabling people to skip the checkout line.

“We’ve invested a lot of time redesigning a number of our Amazon Fresh stores over the last year, offering a better overall shopping experience with more value, convenience, and selection — and so far we’ve seen positive results, with higher customer shopping satisfaction scores and increased purchasing,” Amazon spokesperson Carly Golden said in a statement.

“We’ve also heard from customers that while they enjoyed the benefit of skipping the checkout line with Just Walk Out, they also wanted the ability to easily find nearby products and deals, view their receipt as they shop, and know how much money they saved while shopping throughout the store,” Golden added.

The Information earlier reported Amazon’s decision to scrap Just Walk Out at some Fresh stores.

Amazon’s Go convenience stores will continue to use Just Walk Out technology, along with smaller Fresh locations in the U.K. The company will also continue to license the cashierless system to third parties.

Amazon in 2018 debuted the cashierless technology at a convenience store on its Seattle campus. The system relies on an array of cameras and sensors throughout the store that monitor which items shoppers take with them and charge them automatically when they leave.

Like many artificial intelligence systems, Amazon’s system relies on human moderators and data labelers, who review Just Walk Out transactions and label footage to help train the AI models that make it work. The Information reported last year that the team was made up of more than 1,000 employees, primarily based in India. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed at the time that it uses human moderators, but declined to say how many people it employs in these roles.

JWO was a pet project of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who saw it as a way for the company to differentiate itself in the grocery market and “get rid of the worst thing about physical retail.”

“No one likes to wait in line,” then-CEO Bezos wrote in his 2018 letter to shareholders. “Instead, we imagined a store where you could walk in, pick up what you wanted, and leave.”

Since then, Amazon’s strategy around Just Walk Out has shifted. The company in 2020 began selling the systems to food and retail shops in airports and sports stadiums, and more recently to hospitals. The unit was also moved out of Amazon’s retail group and folded into its cloud-computing division.

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