The company's efforts have followed two distinct paths: Technology in the home and technology in the store. In the home, Amazon already had a significant presence; in stores, its meager footprint got a significant boost in the company's landmark acquisition of Whole Foods.
Here is a look at how Amazon has fundamentally transformed itself in the past year — and how it threatens to transform retail payments in the year ahead.
This listicle is compiled from reporting by PaymentsSource staff writers. Click the links in each item to read more.
The cashier-less store becomes reality
The store uses an extensive mix of cameras and mobile technology to create an environment where Amazon's software can determine who is in its store, what they bought (or considered buying and put away) and how to automatically collect the correct payment when they leave. Shoppers scan an app as they enter in a process that resembles scanning a fare card at a subway turnstile. After that, almost no human interaction is necessary.
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.
It may not be a perfect system (early photos of the store's opening show how the line-busting technology simply shifts the line to the entrance of the store, as people wait to get in), but it's a clear demonstration of the power of technology to make payments almost invisible.
And Amazon Go's focus on food and toiletries — rather than books, Echo devices and other electronics — sends a not-so-subtle signal that this technology is being fine-tuned for the company's 447 Whole Foods locations.