SEATTLE and SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One week after Amazon opened its first small-format Amazon Go in the Macy’s Building in Seattle to Amazon employees, the e-retailer opened its second Amazon Go in San Francisco, marking the ninth Amazon Go to open in the country. The same day, Kroger made its self-driving delivery service available to the public in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Click through for more on these frictionless developments and what they mean for convenience stores …
1. Amazon goes to the pantry
Amazon has built a small-format version of its already small-format Amazon Go stores, coming in at 450 square feet. The first store of this type opened Dec. 12 on the sixth floor of the Seattle Macy’s Building, and it is currently open only to Amazon employees and their guests.
Aside from its smaller size, the store works the same as any other Amazon Go store. Customers scan a QR code on a turnstile when they walk in, grab what they want and leave. Their Amazon accounts are then charged automatically.
In a recent interview with CNN Business, Gianna Puerini, vice president of Amazon Go, said Amazon plans to open more small-format units “soon.” Puerini also said these units are modular and take weeks to assemble, whereas a full-size Amazon Go store takes months to put together.
Just because the store is smaller does not mean it is unmanned. “People do still want help. They like to ask the associates, ‘What’s your favorite? What should I get?’ Or they might want to make sure about ingredients on something,” Puerini told CNN Business. “There’s still a lot of human interaction.”
2. Second Amazon Go opens in San Francisco
The ninth Amazon Go in the United States opened on Dec. 18 and is similar to those before it. The store takes up 1,750 square feet and sits at the corner of Post and Kearny in San Francisco.
As with earlier Amazon Go units, the new location includes Amazon meal kits and local brands including Green Heart Foods, Kikka Sushi, Starter Bakery and Clara’s Kitchen.
3. Kroger, you can drive my R1
Starting Dec. 18, Kroger is expanding its Prius fleet with self-driving startup Nuro’s unmanned vehicles, the R1 (see photo). The R1 will deliver groceries on public roads with no driver and no passengers. It will only transport goods.
For now, the service is available only from a Fry’s Food Stores unit in Scottsdale, Ariz. Customers can place delivery orders seven days a week. They can schedule orders for same-day or next-day delivery for a flat delivery fee of $5.95. No minimum order is required.
Nuro and Kroger have been operating a self-driving Prius fleet to deliver groceries since August, and Nuro has been developing the R1 since 2016. The Nuro and Kroger partnership was announced in June.
This is what convenience looks like in 2018, and in all likelihood, announcements such as these will only become more common in 2019. C-stores have not been idle this year, adopting customer-facing frictionless tools, but the competition is not slowing down.
While Amazon has not confirmed recent reports that it is considering opening 3,000 Amazon Go units by 2021, small-format stores like the new location in Seattle could point to Amazon’s strategy for getting there.
And Kroger and Nuro are not the only companies experimenting with self-driving delivery. Postmates is reportedly preparing to deploy sidewalk robots—essentially self-driving coolers, similar to those from Starship Technologies—designed to trundle straight to consumers’ doors in urban areas. Ford and Domino’s have also teamed up to experiment with delivering pizza in self-driving cars.