Amazon wants to push retail into the future, but it could leave some customers behind.
The e-commerce giant confirmed on Monday morning that it would start selling its cashier-less self-checkout technology to retail partners. The tech, which Amazon has dubbed “Just Walk Out,” currently has a starring role at the company’s growing chain of Amazon Go convenience stores.
To be clear, this isn’t like the self-checkout kiosks at CVS or Target. Amazon’s goal is to reduce the need for lines, so customers will enter Just Walk Out-compliant stores by scanning their credit card at the door. If they take something off the shelf and walk out with it, it’s charged to their account. Receipts are available, but optional.
Amazon didn’t say anything about how much Just Walk Out would cost businesses, but it did mention that installation would take “a few weeks” on the low end. The website also notes that Just Walk Out-enabled stores can still have human employees to answer questions and whatnot.
While the convenience of a Just Walk Out system is clear from the consumer end, one has to wonder about its impact on retail workers. Stores that implement this technology might see fit to downsize, which could hurt the millions of people who currently work in retail for a median wage of less than $12 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One thing the Just Walk Out website did not mention is cash. We reached out to Amazon for comment.
Amazon Go stores belatedly started accepting cash payments last year after places like Philadelphia banned cash-less stores. A 2017 FDIC survey estimated that more than 8 million people in the U.S. had no bank accounts at all, with several million more considered “underbanked.”
On the other end, Amazon’s move into retail tech licensing makes business sense. Amazon Go on its own isn’t a huge cash cow, with only 25 operational locations in the U.S. But if Amazon can get other, more established retail brands to pay for what is essentially cash register tech, that could be a nice new revenue stream. Think of it like Amazon Web Services, but for buying Doritos.