Beyond Amazon Go: what are the supermarkets of the future

Amazon Go and Alibaba stores On January 22,  the long-awaited Amazon Go store finally opened in Seattle, making a grocery shopping revolution: no lines, no cashiers, just walk-out technology all sounds like the future has already arrived. To shop, you’ll need to scan a QR code from the Amazon Go app entering the store, and after that the app will do the work fo you. Once you pick something up, it’s automatically added to your virtual Amazon shopping cart and removed from it, if you change your mind. Thanks to ‘just walk out technology’, the store will automatically charge your Amazon account, once you’ve finished shopping and leave Amazon Go.

Amazon is not the only company, attempting to make offline shopping exciting: Chinese tech giants are into smart grocery stores too. In fact, Alibaba has been eyeing the physical retail for years, as part of its strategic “New Retail” concept, integrating online, offline, logistics, and data. This summer in Hangzhou the company launched its experimental cashier-less convenience store Tao Cafe (淘宝会员店)where purchases are automatically scanned and charged, once a customer walks through a ‘check out gate’.

But this pop-up store was just a demonstration of what can be done for retail. The purest manifestation of Alibaba’s online-offline ambitions is Hema(盒马), a digital-first supermarket chain with currently 25 locations. Customers can buy fresh produce, get it cooked in store, or buy online with 30-minute delivery, payment for every option with a phone.

With help from Microsoft and Accenture, Italian grocery giant Co-op also had a chance to bring their vision of the supermarket of the future into life. Showcased initially at Expo Milano 2015, equipped with interactive shelves and digital screens, the supermarket rides the conscious consumption trend. Italian architect and MIT professor Carlo Rotti, who is behind the concept, believes that in the near future ‘we will be able to discover everything there is to know about, say an apple, we want to buy: the tree it grew on, the CO2 produced, the chemical treatments it received, how long it took to get it to the supermarket shelf etc.”
Zero-Waste Stores
Scientists predict, that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Considering that disposables and packaging take up overwhelming portion of plastic pollution, it’s no surprise, that more people believe the future of supermarkets is zero-waste. UK’s Earth.Food.Love, Bulk Market, Germany’s Unverpackt Kiel, U.S. Package Free Shop and The Zero Market, Canada’s NU Grocery and Soap Dispensary & Kitchen Staples—the list goes on, as more zero-waste shops turn out around the world, transforming a shopping experience into an eco statement. 
Farms in a store
Imagine instead of buying your greens packaged, you just reach to cut them fresh from the ground, while you’re on the grocery run in a conventional supermarket. Bringing the farmers market to stores is another trend. For example, a German startup Infarm aims to do just that, and they already had success, installing their vertical farms in Berlin Metro store. Another example—Gotham Green and Whole Foods Market collaboration in 2013, bringing U.S. first commercial scale greenhouse farm on the store’s roof.
Mobile Grocery Store
Another favorite among the future supermarket concepts is a self-driving store. Toyota, the second biggest automaker in the world, this January announced an ambitious plan to bring the fully autonomous, electric store on wheels. Robomart, another startup, has already started the permit application process and plans to launch the pilot program by summer 2018 in California, while other startup Moby-mart launched their prototype in Shanghai last year.Some of these stores are just a concept now, others were a short-term test, and some successfully exist. We don’t know for sure, how grocery shopping will look like in twenty years. But while tech companies dream up a big, full of electronics future of grocery shopping, and others are innovating with sustainability in mind, the future of retail seems moving in the right direction.


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