Potential Starbucks partnership shows Amazon’s ambitions for its cashierless retail technology

A “Just Walk Out” sign at an Amazon Fresh store in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Could Starbucks give Amazon’s retail technology a jolt?

A report this afternoon by the Insider news site, citing an internal document, says the Seattle companies have discussed creating a new style of coffee shop featuring Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology. The co-branded stores would let people buy beverages, baked goods and hot foods without going through a traditional checkout, the report says.

“The initial layout of the store shows Amazon Go’s food section within a cafe that has a lounge seating area,” writes Insider’s Eugene Kim. “Customers would have to use separate apps for pay — Starbucks’s app for drinks and Amazon’s app for food — though the companies eventually want to build an integrated solution. The store was expected to have a newly created brand.”

The report cautions that the partnership might not happen, noting that it includes milestones for the rollout that subsequently haven’t been met.

However, the reported talks reflect Amazon’s ambitions to take the technology well beyond its own stores and initial third-party implementations. Starbucks’ apparent interest also shows the potential value of the technology to other retailers and venues, noting that Starbucks considered it “a top ten initiative” at the time, supporting its goal of eliminating lines.

Just Walk Out, which debuted in Amazon Go stores in 2018, lets shoppers scan a code or their palm when they walk in, then take items from the shelf and leave without going through a traditional check-out. It uses scales, cameras and sensors to detect which items shoppers take, charging their accounts after they leave the store.

Others using the technology include Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, Hudson Nonstop at Chicago Midway International Airport, and some of Amazon’s own Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh stores.

Responding to an inquiry from GeekWire, Amazon said it doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation. Starbucks declined to comment, as well.

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