Amazon Abandons ‘Just Walk Out’ Checkout System in Its Grocery Stores

Amazon Abandons ‘Just Walk Out’ Checkout System in Its Grocery Stores

Amazon is phasing out its checkout-less grocery stores with “Just Walk Out” technology, first reported by The Information Tuesday. The company’s senior vice president of grocery stores says they’re moving away from Just Walk Out, which relied on cameras and sensors to track what people were leaving the store with.

Just over half of Amazon Fresh stores are equipped with Just Walk Out. The technology allows customers to skip checkout altogether by scanning a QR code when they enter the store. Though it seemed completely automated, Just Walk Out relied on more than 1,000 people in India watching and labeling videos to ensure accurate checkouts. The cashiers were simply moved off-site, and they watched you as you shopped.

On Wednesday, GeekWire reported that Amazon Web Services is cutting a few hundred jobs in its Physical Stores Technology team, according to internal emails. The layoffs will allegedly impact portions of Amazon’s identity and checkout teams.

Instead of Just Walk Out, Amazon is moving towards Dash Carts, a scanner and screen that’s embedded in your shopping cart, allowing you to checkout as you shop. These offer a more reliable solution than Just Walk Out. Amazon Fresh stores will also feature self check out counters from now on, for people who aren’t Amazon members.

“We’re rolling out Amazon Dash Cart, our smart-shopping carts,” said an Amazon spokesperson to Gizmodo. Amazon confirmed this feature is replacing its Just Walk Out technology in existing stores.

Just Walk Out was first introduced in 2016, presenting Amazon’s biggest and boldest innovation in grocery shopping. The technology seemed incredible, but there were some stumbles. It often took hours for customers to receive receipts after leaving the store, largely because offshore cashiers were rewatching videos and assigning items to different customers. The system of scanners and video cameras in each store is also incredibly expensive.

According to The Information, 700 out of 1,000 Just Walk Out sales required human reviewers as of 2022. This widely missed Amazon’s internal goals of reaching less than 50 reviews per 1,000 sales. Amazon called this characterization inaccurate, and disputes how many purchases require reviews.

“The primary role of our Machine Learning data associates is to annotate video images, which is necessary for continuously improving the underlying machine learning model powering,” said an Amazon spokesperson to Gizmodo. However, the spokesperson acknowledged these associates validate “a small minority” of shopping visits when AI can’t determine a purchase.

Amazon Fresh, the e-commerce giant’s grocery store first launched in 2007, has just over 40 locations around the United States. The company also owns Whole Foods, and many of Amazon Fresh’s experiments are seen as precursors for the large chain.

The company is reportedly keeping Just Walk Out technology in a small number of Fresh stores in the United Kingdom, and some of its Amazon Go convenience stores. Amazon has also implemented Just Walk Out technology at several ballparks around the country. These locations will keep the technology going.

Amazon is trying to further break into the grocery space to grow into another billion-dollar market. Though it owns Whole Foods, the e-commerce giant still doesn’t compete with food goliaths like Walmart, Costco, and Kroger. Amazon’s push away from expensive tests like Just Walk Out may be a sign the company is looking to further expand its presence as a supermarket.

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