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09/08/2021

Amazon bringing cashierless tech to Whole Foods Market

Two Whole Foods stores will offer the Amazon “Just Walk Out” experience.
Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Amazon continues to expand its “Just Walk Out” autonomous checkout technology, this time to its Whole Foods Market division.

The company will deploy the technology in two new Whole Foods Market stores — in the Glover Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and Sherman Oaks, California — that are scheduled to open in 2022. Amazon’s Just Walk Out” tech leverages a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning — similar to what is used in a self-driving car — that enables shoppers to shop the store, select products and skip the checkout when they’re done.

Originally available only in Amazon Go convenience and small-format grocery stores, Amazon recently rolled out the revolutionary Just Walk Out technology at  Amazon Fresh high-tech grocery location in Bellevue, Wash. and Washington, D.C. The company also licenses the technology to third-party retailers.

In the upcoming Whole Foods locations, Amazon said it has expanded the computer vision algorithms of its Just Walk Out tech to support all of the stores’ selection, including self-service.  For example, customers at the two stores will be able to shop stations with self-service fresh-squeezed orange juice and mochi ice cream, using the Just Walk Out experience.

Amazon also integrated the tech with Whole Foods’ checkout and payment processing systems to accommodate customers who want to either shop via Just Walk Out or the store’s self-checkout lanes. Entering the store, customers will be greeted by an associate, and can then choose if they want to shop using Just Walk Out technology or the self-checkout lanes. Amazon said employees will be available throughout the store to assist customers, regardless of how they choose to shop.  (Shoppers who want to check out with a Whole Foods employees can do so at the customer service booth.)

Whole Foods customers who want to use Just Walk Out shopping can do so  in three ways: by scanning the QR code in the Whole Foods Market or Amazon app, hovering their palm using the Amazon One palm-based payment system, or inserting a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account. Customers who want to use cash, prepaid cards, Whole Foods Market gift cards, EBT, or eWic can use the self-checkout lanes.

Once inside, customers will shop like normal and at the end of their trip, they scan or insert their entry method again to exit. After customers leave the store, those who use the Just Walk Out experience will receive a digital receipt, which will be available in the Whole Foods Market app.

“Since Whole Foods Market was founded more than 40 years ago, we have focused on finding new ways to surprise and delight our customers and improve the shopping experience,” John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods Market, said in a corporate blog post. “By collaborating with Amazon to introduce Just Walk Out Shopping at these two Whole Foods Market stores, our customers will be able to shop for fresh, thoughtfully sourced products that all meet our unparalleled quality standards, receive exceptional service from our associates throughout their shopping trip, and save time by skipping the checkout line. We can’t wait for customers to experience this effortless, convenient new way to shop at Whole Foods Market.”

“We launched the technology first in Amazon Go several years ago and, since then, we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from customers who love being able to quickly and easily shop and skip the checkout line,” said Dilip Kumar, VP, physical retail and technology, Amazon.

For now, Amazon plans to observe customer reaction to Just Walk Out when it opens the two new Whole Foods locations and then go from there.