Whole Foods Market Is Making Strides With 'Just Walk Out' Shopping

"Just Walk Out" grocery shopping isn't for everyone, but it's likely to grow.

Amazon's Amazon Go has made many of us familiar walking into a store and leaving without going through checkout, but does checkout-less shopping make buying groceries better? Depending on time of day and the customer, Placer.ai, a retail analytics firm, reports that two Whole Foods Market stores with Amazon's Just Walk Out checkout systems performed better than nearby stores that didn't have the system. It was only true in certain categories, though.

The two Whole Foods Market locations that were analyzed were located in Washington D.C. and Sherman Oaks, California. The Washington D.C location reopened in February 2022 after some renovations and had more early-to-midday shoppers who didn't linger in the store long compared to other Whole Foods stores in the nearby area. The insight indicated that shoppers chose the Whole Foods Market with the "Walk Out" technology because they could get in and out faster.

Who uses Whole Foods’ “Just Walk Out” shopping most?

Placer.ai also found that shoppers who frequented the Just Walk Out Whole Foods in D.C. were mostly young, well-educated, high income, and tech-oriented professionals. Yet, as a brand, Whole Foods is generally known as a health food store geared toward "urbanist" shoppers who often discuss the brand on social media. It looks like the checkout-free technology is helping Whole Foods attract a different demographic.

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As for the California location, it seems to have proven a point Amazon was already making in that particular state: Many people in California have no problem with a checkout-less experience. California already has the most Amazon Fresh locations in the country, and the data from this particular Whole Foods showed that from July to December of 2022 it had more visits per square foot than other Whole Foods stores nearby.

Despite the convenience and perhaps welcome attitude of California shoppers, other customers might still be hesitant to embrace Just Walk Out technology. Paula Rosenblum of Retail Wire noted in a recent article that the technology may not be as "frictionless" as Amazon describes. For example, while Just Walk Out may suit a quick shopping run, someone shopping for their weekly grocery haul may not enjoy having to bag their own groceries, scan their own items (when necessary), and loading and unloading everything alone.

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The fact that the Whole Foods in D.C. saw more tech-focused, young professionals makes sense: It's less likely that those shoppers were bagging groceries for a family of five on a weekly basis. Checkout-less shopping may be the way of the future for some shoppers, but it still hasn't found its place among the masses.

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