Is Amazon’s ‘Grab and Go’ store the future of food shopping.

Mitul Chauhan, Head of Content
24 March 2021

Amazon Go has finally made its way to the UK! After setting up its shop in the US in 2018, Amazon’s physical, cashierless shopping experience has arrived in London. So it was only right that Somo went along to take an early look. Our Head of Content, Mitul Chauhan, shares his experience.

The good

Let’s start with the housekeeping. Thankfully there were loads of hand sanitizer stations, social distancing signs, reusable bags and a collect and return desk. So a big thumbs up there.

As you’d expect the shopping itself was frictionless. On arrival, I was greeted by an Amazon advisor who explained how to get the special barcode on my phone, then I just scanned it at the entry gate, bagged what I wanted and left. No tills, checkouts or self-service payment kiosks. 

And sure enough after leaving I instantly received my virtual receipt for all 10 items purchased and was automatically charged. It told me my trip was completed in 16 minutes 48 secs. Yes, there are tons of hidden cameras and sensors to track your every move and it’s way too easy to binge shop and rack up a huge bill without being able to monitor your spend. But I guess that’s the point. Who cares when it’s this quick and convenient?

Then there are the smart little touches that elevate this over the typical metro supermarket experience. Like the cute “So good it’s gone” barkers on shelves where stock has run out. And the dedicated Oatly coffee machines alongside standard milk. Ok it’s not exactly barista style, but it’s a welcome change from the standard express cup fodder.

The grocery produce itself is a mixture of Amazon’s own ‘Fresh’ brand plus Morrisons and Booths. I chose their lunchtime meal deal, a pulled pork wrap with a drink and a side for an extra £1. Perfectly edible and good value for money.

And finally, on exiting the store there’s even a touch-free feedback device where you hover your finger over a smiley or sad face to rate your trip. Nice.

The not so good

I'm a Prime customer who lives near the store and has spent literally £000s with them over three lockdowns. So I was surprised not to receive any personalised communications from Amazon telling me about it. No emails, no app notifications, nada.  Nothing to inform me what account details I’d have to show or anything else I’d need to know in order to shop there. So I googled it and was directed to download the Amazon Go app, except to find on arrival that this is only for the US and it’s the UK version that was required.  

Given that Amazon holds so much data about me they could have used that knowledge to greater effect with some helpful pre-shop CRM. Or maybe there was a trial campaign to local customers and I wasn't selected or that they’re just trying to control traffic during a pandemic... or I just expect too much! Either way, in my book it was a wasted marketing opportunity. 

Lastly, I knew beforehand that it was groceries only, but I still thought I’d be able to buy more than just food. And maybe that’s down to being so used to an online experience that we’ve all come to know and love (or hate) a bit too much recently. I expect to get literally anything, anytime from Amazon, so going to their first till-less shop and ending up with only a rudimentary shopping basket felt a bit underwhelming. At least to me.

So here’s my verdict. For speed and convenient food shopping it’s unbeatable and unparalleled. Perfect for busy office workers, millennials and Gen Zs, who are happy to buy just what they need when they need it, in record time. Sadly, the novelty very quickly wore off for me and I won’t be rushing back anytime soon. But if there was ever a large, till-free ‘grab and go’ warehouse that opened nearby, in the not too distant future, where I can get books, back-packs, wellies, garden toys and Saniflo descalers... I’d be there in a heartbeat.