The Shopping Experience: Convenience or Privacy?


Arguably, one of the most annoying things about food shopping in store is knowing you’ll likely have to wait in a long queue to pay for your items (especially last thing on a Sunday). But what if we told you that you could walk into a shop, pick up what you want, and then walk out (skipping the checkout completely)? Sounds almost criminally easy, right? Now imagine you go through this process with hundreds of cameras recording every single move you make from all angles to calculate what you purchase; does the convenience of saving time and not having to pay at the checkout outweigh the ‘breach’ of your privacy?..

…According to Amazon Go, it must do (at least for some), as the retail giant has just opened its very first till-free food store in Seattle, USA. The shop – which is situated on the ground floor of their headquarters building and primarily occupied by Amazon staff and tourists – gives people the opportunity to do their grocery shopping in a place where there’s no queues, no cash and no ‘unexpected items in the bagging area’! If you want to quickly grab an American-sized sandwich, energy drink or instant mac-n-cheese, Amazon Go’s the shop to stop by.

In order to shop at Amazon Go’s till-free store, customers must download a special app which links their Amazon account to their bank card. Their phone then generates a code which, once scanned by the tube-style automatic gates, allows them to enter the store. From that moment onwards pressure plates and cameras allow the store shelves to detect when a customer has picked up an item and added it to their virtual shopping cart. Once customers have finished shopping, they walk through the store’s electronic gates, and a couple of minutes later, a receipt appears on their mobile. It really is that simple.

The only potential hiccup? The Telegraph commented: “You know that statistic about the average Brit being caught on CCTV 70 times a day? At Amazon Go, you surpass that in a few seconds. It’s surveillance shopping at its finest.” This leaves you wondering whether the cameras are there to simply just make sure no one’s stealing, or whether there’s another reason such as Amazon wanting to pick up more data on their customers.

Smart Shopping

Amazon is the world’s third most valuable company (behind Apple and Google) – their market capitalisation reached $702.46 billion in February this year (2018). Their ability to understand their customer’s needs and desires is undoubtedly helping to push them up the rankings; Amazon are continuously twisting, growing and adapting the online shopping experience (with the likes of Amazon Prime) of their customers and now they’ve transferred this model from the screen to the bricks and mortar store.

If the retailer were ever concerned the sheer amount of cameras would put shoppers off, they no longer have to be; the Telegraph reports none of the customers seemed at all bothered by the cameras recording their movements when they took a trip to the grocery store. The news website commented that convenience seems to have trumped privacy for most people.

What’s your opinion on a till-free store? Do you love the convenience of avoiding queues or does Amazon’s invasive attitude towards shopping concern you? Would you really be that bothered if you were targeted by ads selling you a product you picked up and then put back down again in store? We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment below.

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