Amazon opens first UK store

Today Amazon is opening its first Amazon Fresh store outside of the US in Ealing, West London.

The new grocery store, which sells fresh produce, meat, seafood, bakery items, and household essentials, is a “Just Walk Out Shopping” experience, using contactless payment technology.

Shops have sensors and cameras that track what customers put into their shopping baskets and customers are charged via the Amazon Go app on their phone.

The store will also offer customers a wide selection of its new private food brand, ‘by Amazon,’ which includes groceries and hot food.

Responding to the store opening, Josep Alvarez, UK head of banking practice at NTT DATA UK and everis, said: “Friction is slowly fading away from payments. Amazon Fresh is a perfect marriage of technology and convenience for customers. COVID-19 has been an unprecedented moment for tech-driven forms of payment, from contactless payments to the explosion of e-commerce activity. The QR code, as part of Amazon Fresh technology platform, has emerged from relative obscurity during the pandemic and become a genuinely viable way for businesses to support a seamless, convenient way to pay.”

He said that that payment providers need to stay innovative or they’ll be “crowded out” by tech players like Amazon and Google.

“Advancements in AI and data analytics have incredible potential here, rapidly and securely handling the vast data volumes generated by purchases and the wide array of goods in the retail environment,” said Alvarez. “There is also a huge opportunity here for companies to scale up this contactless approach, so that one day we eventually see larger ‘checkout-free’ stores, and even whole shopping malls.”

Andy Halliwell, director of retail and retail analyst at technology consultancy Publicis Sapient, said that although Amazon Go is an “amazing showcase” for Amazon tech and will generate a “buzz,” it is still to be determined whether this is a viable long-term solution for anything larger than a small convenience store.

“However, it’s easy to see a role for this technology in 24x7 stores in fuel forecourts and service stations as well as for small corner shops which are already open extended hours,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that Amazon has pushed forward with it assault on UK grocery retail with both stores and their online delivery offering, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to steal market share from the big 4 supermarkets at a time when they have struggled to scale parts of their online offering, and they’ve been hampered by successive lockdowns to bring digital innovation into their physical spaces.”

Paul Crerand, field chief tech officer EMEA at MuleSoft said: “The news that Amazon is opening its first ‘Go’ store in the UK is further evidence that the ‘just walk out’ concept is gaining traction. To date however, the efforts of the UK’s own retail giants have had only limited success. The biggest obstacle has been technological: the ‘just walk out’ concept requires a unified view of each customer across a retailer’s entire business. That means everything from a customer’s online and offline shopping history, to browsing preferences, to their current location. To be truly effective, in store systems have to not only track items as products are put in individual baskets, but also analyse past purchasing behaviour to offer real-time information, offers and suggestions as customers walk through the store.”

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