The Whole Foods Market of the future may look more like parent company Amazon’s Amazon Fresh stores, at least from a technology front. Next year, the Austin, Texas-based grocer plans to open two stores—one in Washington D.C. and a second in Sherman Oaks, Calif.—that feature Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, giving customers the choice to skip the checkout line for a faster, more convenient shopping experience, according to the company.
Whole Foods notes that both stores will “offer the high-quality, natural and organic products and locally sourced options that are found in all Whole Foods Market locations,” although each of the forthcoming stores will be considerably smaller than its typical units.
Using Just Walk Out technology, customers can enter, shop for the items they want, and exit the store. Those shopping using Just Walk Out will also have the option to use Amazon One, a pay-with-your-palm technology that the company describes as “a fast, convenient, contactless way for people to enter, identify and pay.”
If customers prefer, they can also opt to shop using self-checkout lanes or check out at the customer service booth with Whole Foods Market team members.
“Since Whole Foods Market was founded more than 40 years ago, we have focused on finding new ways to surprise and delight our customers and improve the shopping experience,” said John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, in a statement. “By collaborating with Amazon to introduce Just Walk Out Shopping at these two Whole Foods Market stores, our customers will be able to shop for fresh, thoughtfully sourced products that all meet our unparalleled quality standards, receive exceptional service from our team members throughout their shopping trip, and save time by skipping the checkout line.
“We can’t wait for customers to experience this effortless, convenient new way to shop at Whole Foods Market,” Mackey continued.
Perhaps in an effort to reassure loyal Whole Foods shoppers that only the checkout experience is new at the upcoming bicoastal stores, the grocer issued a release stating that “customers will find all the offerings they expect and love from Whole Foods Market, including fresh, seasonal produce; full-service meat, seafood, and cheese departments; extensive selections of baked goods, grocery items, wellness, and beauty products; alcohol; prepared foods; grab-and-go meals; and a variety of items from local producers.”
It’s also letting shoppers know that Just Walk Out technology will not impact the number of in-store staff members.
“Whole Foods Market team members will be in every department ready to answer questions, offer their expertise, or provide product recommendations,” says the company. “These locations will continue to employ a comparable number of team members as existing Whole Foods Market stores of similar sizes.”
“Our Team Members are our secret sauce—the expertise they offer in our aisles and the passion they bring to our stores are what makes Whole Foods Market such a special place to shop,” said Mackey. “We already have a bunch of incredible team members working hard to get these stores ready, and we look forward to hiring many more as we get closer to opening.”
“We’ve heard from customers how much they appreciate the checkout-free shopping experience that Just Walk Out technology offers at both Amazon’s stores and other retailers’ stores,” said Dilip Kumar, VP, physical retail and technology at Amazon. “I’m excited to see how Whole Foods Market customers enjoy the fast, effortless Just Walk Out Shopping experience that allows them to skip the checkout line at the Glover Park and Sherman Oaks stores when they open.”
How Just Walk Out Shopping Works
Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology is made possible by a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning—similar to what you’d find in self-driving cars—and adds convenience to customers’ grocery shopping experience by giving them the option to come in, pick up what they want, and skip the checkout when they’re done, says the company.
Customers will not need to be Amazon Prime members or have an Amazon account to shop the D.C. or Sherman Oaks stores. To skip the checkout with Just Walk Out shopping, customers can enter the stores in any of three ways: Scan the QR code in the Whole Foods Market or Amazon app, insert a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account, or hover their palm using Amazon One.
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Customers who want to use cash, prepaid cards, Whole Foods Market gift cards, EBT, or eWic can use the self-checkout lanes.
Once inside, customers can “shop like normal,” says the company. Anything shoppers take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart. At the end of their trip, customers scan or insert their entry method again to exit.
Whole Foods says team members will be available at the entryways and exits to help customers as they enter and exit the stores, and they will be found throughout the stores to assist customers during their shopping trips.
After customers leave the store, those who use Just Walk Out will receive a digital receipt, which will be available in the Whole Foods Market app. Customers who use self-checkout will receive a paper receipt.
The Washington, D.C., store is located at 2323 Wisconsin Ave. N.W. and has a 21,500-square-foot sales floor. The Sherman Oaks store is located at 12905 Riverside Drive and has a 9,100-square-foot sales floor. Both stores are expected to open next year.
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