Amazon Fresh Stores, Built By Engineers?

A quick snapshot of what an Alpha version 1.0 grocery store looks like.

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Outside Woodland Hills, CA Amazon Fresh Store

After a visit to an Amazon Fresh store, I had mixed feelings about the shopping and “user” experience. From the outside, the store was clean and the parking lot was set up for what looks like the future of grocery shopping.

Curbside pick up spots were everywhere.

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Amazon Fresh Curbside Pickup

Reminders to use curbside pickup everywhere.

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Amazon Fresh Shopping Cart

Every shopping cart pushes mobile centric messaging. The 21st century tech shopping experience looked like things were in good hands.

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Amazon Fresh Check In Feature

Except for their new gadget, the Amazon Dash Cart, a stocky little shopping cart with a screen. It was small and weighed a ton (I will get to the weight in a bit).

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Amazon Dash Cart

The cart experience started had the user open the Amazon app and scan a QR code. Asking people to scan a QR code may sound normal to some, but not always obvious to the average grocery shopper. If I read the screen a little closer I would have just opened the Amazon app.

Once the app was opened I struggled to find how and why I opened it in the first place. A helpful employee approached and explained how to pair my phone with the cart but said my app needed an update. For traditional shoppers, updating an app to have to shop is not the best experience.

After spending 2 or 3 minutes trying to figure out the issue, I realized he was actually wrong, the app was updated and he didn’t know how to manage the screen menu. I use an android, so maybe he had never seen anything but an iphone, either way, he did not know his own UI.

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Scan Code

I had opened the app and had to, again, scan a QR code to pair to the shopping cart. Once paired I watched a mini “how to”.

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Amazon Video

There were two more screens; a shopping list and coupon screen. I assume you would push a pre-made shopping list via Alexa to this screen, but, it made little sense to add items when you were in the store already. The other issue was the coupons icon, this was a perfect opportunity to provide coupons but there were none available and it felt like a lost opportunity.

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Shopping List and Coupons Screen

When I started to shop I realized pushing the cart was an actual issue. It weighs substantially more that a typical cart and a person could easily have issues turning the cart or even stopping it with too much momentum. The cart was also incredibly small and only held 70% of what a typical basket holds.

I began to shop. When you place products in the cart they are scanned by multiple green scanners that identify the object via the PLU or barcode and use the weight of the object to load it into the system. The scale literally applies the value as if you hit the enter button on an app. The first couple of items seem to work nicely, but as you begin to stack items in the cart, issues occur.

Blocked scanner notifications, weight issues not measuring properly, and removing items confused the computer. There were also some CPU loading issues.

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Cart Issues

Other issues that proved to be challenging was that the store was no Whole Foods; it was cramped, items were out of stock and the aisles were cramped and full of Amazon employees picking either delivery or curbside. Interestingly, this article felt a bit like my experience;

“A manager ….. called Prime workers “vultures” who “come in and pick every department clean.” https://www.yahoo.com/news/being-sci-fi-nightmare-film-145700882.html

Half way through the shopping experience I couldn’t put any more in my cart so i went to check out.

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The checkout was nice, you received a digital receipt and you were out the door.

My takeaway; the cart is a failure, too heavy, too difficult for a neophyte tech customer and way too small.

The store was a mish mash of whole foods meets amazon.com, just not a comfortable experience as they tried to shove too many items into a space that’s too cramped for today’s “covid” shopper.

It looks like they are trying to be a shipping and pickup center and a shopping experience at the same time and I don’t think that will work. Shopping next to the “pro” that are in a hurry to fill curbside or delivery orders feels rushed and impersonal. Amazon Fresh should learn from it’s sister, Whole Foods, how to create the right shopping environment and not mix the “pro” shoppers by putting them in a back warehouse or create a micro-distribution center in an entirely different location.

By: Jonas Hudson

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