As goes Whole Foods, so goes the future of grocery stores?
A lot has been made of Amazon's recent announcement that it will acquire Whole Foods for a whopping $13.7 billion (insert your own "Whole Paycheck" joke here).
Many have speculated the brand will continue to operate as it has, with enhanced pre-ordering and home delivery. But Amazon may have something far bigger in mind.
As Business Insider recently pointed out, Amazon released a video back in December on a concept it calls 'Amazon Go'.
Here, shoppers use an Amazon Go app to pre-order items in a virtual cart. When they get to the store, they simply walk in, scan the app at a turnstile, pick up the items they want, and walk out the door, without ever digging for cash, writing a check, swiping a card—or ever standing in line.
Using what Amazon calls "Just Walk Out" technology, Amazon Go leverages "deep learning algorithms, computer vision and sensor fusion" to keep track of what you pick up in-store. It'll even know if you put something back, or picked up additional items, and update your order. Everything's automatically charged to your account when you walk out the door.
It's a fascinating and compelling vision. It's also one shared by many others, of course.
It's been well over a decade since I started chatting with Seth Godin, Tom Nicholson and others about the concept—and how elements of it have already been applied for brands such as Prada and Tesco—as showcased in my books, The On-Demand Brand and Branding Unbound.
What I think is especially elegant about Amazon's concept is that it at least appears to remove the need for things like RFID tags to be applied at the item level, and for readers to be set up throughout the store—something that has so far proven costly and impractical. At least from this video, the technology appears to be completely invisible to the customer. The first Go location opened for Amazon employees in Seattle earlier this year.
It'll be a blast to see how the concept develops, and what role if any Whole Foods ultimately plays in its evolution.
However things play out there, it's hard to imagine some version of this concept is not just the future of Whole Foods or even just the grocery category.