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Amazon Go — a cashless concept ahead of its time
Bloomberg News
Perhaps the most famous modern-day example of a cashless store is Amazon Go, which does without cashiers entirely.

After a year of teething trouble at the Amazon Go cashierless concept store in Seattle, the e-tailer finally opened its doors to the public in January. While a fascinating exercise in the potential for technology to streamline choke points in a store, no amount of Jetsons-esque technology can prepare the company for a stampede of consumers accustomed to Flintstones-era retail.

Desipte its ambition, the Amazon Go store has not had an auspicious start, with the pilot raising issues such as not being able to track more than 20 people in-store and incorrectly tracking items that are moved from shelves. While the bugs have apparently been ironed out, the idiosyncrasies of human behavior are likely to be just as problematic in unattended retail as they are in driverless cars.

The reason for the complex array of sensors in the Amazon Go store relates to a number of factors — customer analytics, inventory management and real-time diagnostics — but there is also one critical reason for the technology: trust.

In a study conducted by the University of Leicester in the U.K., losses incurred through self-service technology payment systems totalled 3.97% of stock, compared to just 1.47% otherwise. There are checks and balances in place with today’s self-service checkouts but these are far from foolproof.

A key difference with Amazon Go is every shopper is known from the moment they enter the store. Amazon has glass-gate turnstiles set up at the entrance, prompting shoppers to check in by scanning an app, much like subway riders might scan an app or a fare card before entering the system.

In Amazon's utopian shopping model, nobody is a stranger. This doesn't wipe out the possibility of shoplifting — any more than security cameras or guards wipe out shoplifting at other stores — but it does change the dynamic in a meaningful way.