As part of its plan to elbow its way into every corner of commerce, Amazon has now partnered with Starbucks to open a new cashierless cafe in New York City. With around 30,000 locations, the coffee franchise represents an opportunity for Amazon’s camera-based payment system to see exponential growth if the pilot’s a success.
Located on 59th street between Park and Lex, Starbucks and Amazon’s new “concept store” open its doors today to test out a more futuristic and frictionless way of “integrating the digital and physical retail experience.” OK, but what does that actually mean when it comes to buying a drink or snack?
In its press release, Starbucks says that customers can order drinks by using their phone or another mobile device in the Starbucks app and selecting the 59th between Park & Lex w/ Amazon Go location. Now that’s not much different than what you can do at a regular Starbucks location, however, once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a screen showing all the current mobile orders, at which point you can pick up your drink from a Starbucks barista.
As for Amazon’s role in the new concept store, for people who want something else that’s not on Starbucks’ menu, the store also has a lounge connected to an Amazon Go market, which people can enter by flashing a QR code from the Amazon app, their credit card, or their palm to get past the gates. Once inside, Amazon’s Just Walk Out tech uses cameras mounted in the store’s ceiling to watch and track which items you pick up and buy before deducting the cost of your items from your account when you leave.
And despite the fancy tech, Starbucks says its concept store offers the full Starbucks menu, while the Amazon Go market offers a “curated assortment of food and beverages” including fresh salads, sandwiches, baked goods, and more. Some specialty items are sourced from local eateries like Genji Sushi, York Street, Proper Foods, Magnolia Bakery, Ess-a-Bagel, and more.
Elsewhere inside the store, Starbucks says there will also be individual workspaces with power outlets and USB ports, so if need to place to study or just recharge your devices, you can do that too.
But regardless of which side of the store you visit, there won’t be any registers or dedicated cashiers to slow you down, in case that’s a big frustration in your life. And for New Yorkers who don’t live near 59th street, Starbucks and Amazon already have plans to open at least two more cashierless Starbucks Pickup with Amazon Go locations, with the second store slated to be in the New York Times Building on 40th and 8th.
While smaller changes like a dedicated screen to show which orders are ready makes a lot of sense for Starbucks Pickup locations, the bigger impact of this concept store is the continued expansion of Amazon’s cashierless Just Walk Out tech, which was first used in a handful of Amazon Go convenience stores before used in a full grocery store and now joint cafes run in tandem with Starbucks.
And with Starbucks envisioning its new concept store as a “modernized third-place environment” for people to meet and connect outside of their homes or offices, it probably won’t be long until Starbucks ’ cashierless cafes expand outside of NYC.
Meanwhile, for Amazon, this partnership with Starbucks represents yet another avenue for the e-commerce giant to further expand its retail presence and gather even more data about customer shopping habits. Watch your back, Starbucks. Amazon loves to scoop up data on its partners’ businesses before shoving the knife in.