Since the opening of the first cashless Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle nearly three years ago, Amazon has continued to open new Go stores in a few cities. But if you wonder why there are no such stores nearby, Amazon may not stick to its original plan to distribute them across the country.
According to 2018 documents seen by The Information Amazon planned to open 56 Go stores by the end of this year and 156 by the end of 2020, but so far it has only announced 18. Only 15 of These are open to the public and are only located in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. Since the documents reviewed by The Information are reportedly from April last year, it's really hard to say why Amazon might not stick to its original plan ̵
One idea: It can only be difficult for Amazon to find good store locations. According to the documents, Amazon's cashless stores need high ceilings, enabling the company to mount cameras and sensors they use to detect what items a customer is buying. They also need to be near Amazon stores that have fresh food, and need decent foot traffic, so customers are likely to come by.
Another idea: Amazon may have reconsidered its efforts on smaller stores as it explores building larger ones. In March – the same month that Amazon suddenly shut down all 87 pop-up kiosks in the US – we also heard that the company was planning to open a new grocery chain that would not be affiliated with Amazon Go or Whole Foods (which it owns), suggesting that Amazon may think a more traditional grocery model with a different Amazon brand (or no Amazon brand at all) has more potential than its other grocery stores.
Back in 2018, according to the documents, it was already exploring a larger grocery store. Maybe it decided to push it harder.
And though Amazon hyped the Go stores as a simple, near-friction-free payment experience and has been testing it for a few years, Amazon still seems to find the right formula for how to buy these groceries. The company said in April that it plans to receive cash in Go stores, which could slow down the store experience, but also allow more people to shop. Just this past week, New York Post reported that the company is assessing biometric payments by scanning customers' hands to pay for Whole Foods purchases.
Amazon has also expanded its grocery delivery service throughout the months since Amazon's rollout plan was originally drafted – another way to sell groceries without the need for tiny stores.
Amazon is also under continued pressure from activists criticizing its business practices, allowing the company to take a more cautious approach to rolling out the Go stores as a result. When Amazon originally introduced the camera-heavy cashless concept that looks at you while you shop, it didn't take nearly as much flak over facial recognition technology. Or its tipping policy (since improved), working conditions (follow along), or the massive local setback over the supposed search for a new headquarters (now half canceled).
Whatever the cause of the slow rollout, it seems that something has changed with Amazon's Go strategy since the projections made in the documents reviewed by The Information, and it seems less likely that we will see 3000 of them by 2021, when we had been led to believe one years ago. If you do not live near a Go store now, you may have to wait until you can shop at one yourself.
Correction, 1:12 ET: We recalculated and Amazon is currently showing 15 Go stores open to the public, not 14.