Impact 21 Tests The Just Walk Out Technology Firsthand

Starbucks and Amazon have launched a new store concept that combines physical and digital retail experiences. They are collaborating to open three locations, built with the order-ahead feature on the Starbucks app and Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out technology and aim to offer the comfort of a Starbucks with the convenience of Amazon Go.

The first location opened recently in New York City. Impact 21 had a chance to visit the store earlier this month to see if the collaboration delivered a compelling experience and to consider what it might mean for retailing.

Despite having the creature comforts of a Starbucks, make no mistake, this is another test of a frictionless, digital experience in a physical store. While you can place orders at the counter and pay with cash, these methods are last resorts and undermine the whole intent of the concept.

Upon entering the store, you are prompted to identify yourself via the Amazon app, a credit card, or Amazon One, a contactless, biometric identity service that uses your palm. Once you identify yourself and pass through the turnstiles, the store feels like a typical Starbucks with a few notable exceptions.

If you have ordered ahead on the Starbucks app, your name and order status will be displayed on a digital screen above the pickup area. You will find an assortment of fresh-prepared salads, sandwiches, bakery items, and snack options.  The merchandise displays are different and all of the bakery items are pre-wrapped and self-serve to enable the Just Walk Out experience.

A seating area sits at the back of the store and retains most of the welcoming “please hangout” feel with all of the workspace accoutrements like power outlets and USB ports…and a bunch of cameras watching your every move. While somewhat disconcerting at first, I imagine these cameras quickly fade into the background for most folks.

The seamlessness of the entire experience hinges on your ability to have the necessary apps, be logged in, and have a sufficient Starbucks balance). Unless you plan ahead, your first visit may be a bit cumbersome, but once your digital enablers are set up, the experience is very smooth.

Stay for a While Versus Get In, Get Out

Observers may point to the seeming dichotomy from a store that promotes both hyper-fast transactions  and a “third place” experience. The concept is an attempt to satisfy different trip missions. On my way to work in the morning I may be in a hurry and want to get in and out quickly. If I need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I can grab a coffee and get some work done in the seating area. Same customer, different trip missions.

The above video shows just how easy and swift the entire experience can be. It will be interesting to monitor the progress of these first three locations and how they resonate with consumers. Other retailers will continue to jump in to test different technology solutions that remove friction from the customer experience. NACS Daily News shares how Delek is integrating touchless checkout in the convenience channel. Watch the Delek Convenience Store checkout experience in action. The time is now to stay ahead of the ever changing customer experience.

Starbucks Amazon Go NYC
Starbucks Amazon Go NYC
Starbucks Amazon Go NYC
Starbucks Amazon Go NYC