Amazon made headlines back in 2016 when it sought to eliminate the traditional checkout lane with its “Just Walk Out” technology. Then it made headlines earlier this month when it announced it was abandoning the system in its full-scale grocery stores. And it turns out coupons might have had something to do with the strategy shift.

Just Walk Out was billed as “the world’s most advanced shopping technology” when Amazon first introduced it. Sensors located all over the store detect when an item is moved from a shelf into your shopping basket. Then you can leave without stopping to scan each item or pay, as your total is tallied up automatically and you’re charged via your Amazon account.

Amazon says it still works well in small-format convenience stores. But in full-sized Amazon Fresh grocery stores, “smart shopping carts” are the better option.

In an interview with GeekWire, vice president of Amazon Web Services applications Dilip Kumar said shoppers grabbing a few items, and those doing a weekly stock-up shopping trip, have different needs and preferences. “Many customers in grocery stores place more value on tracking their spending as they go, seeing item locations, and using coupons. These features are better supported by the smart cart experience,” GeekWire reported him as saying.


Instead of relying on sensors located all over the store, Amazon’s Dash Cart shopping carts keep track of your purchases on their own. Just scan items as you put them into your cart, and an attached touchscreen monitor keeps a running total of what you’ve selected and how much you owe. You can also use the touchscreen to apply coupons as you shop, or get notified when coupons or deals are available.

With Just Walk Out, you can still save with coupons if you have them preloaded to your account, or you can pull out your phone and apply them on the Amazon app as you shop. But there’s nothing to prompt you to do so, the way the Dash Cart can.

So Amazon now sees the Dash Cart as grocery’s future – so much so, that it’s making the technology available to others. A McKeever’s Market in Kansas and four Price Choppers in Kansas and neighboring Missouri are testing out Amazon Dash Carts of their own. They’re the first of many retailers to whom Amazon now hopes to sell its high-tech carts, though they’re not the first retailers to roll out smart carts, as others already have similar ones.

But will Dash Carts someday go the way of Just Walk Out? Amazon is hailing Dash Carts as the future, but then that’s what it said about Just Walk Out. Introducing new technology to the routine, mundane but predictable chore of grocery shopping hasn’t always gone smoothly. Retailers like Wegmans and Hy-Vee introduced – and then quickly eliminated – the ability to use a store app to scan and bag your own items as you shopped. And the backlash against self-checkout is intensifying to the point that many retailers are scaling back or eliminating self-checkouts in favor of human cashiers.

So despite the influence of technology in nearly all other aspects of our lives, if you shop at a grocery store with no self-checkouts, no self-scan app and no ability to walk out without stopping at the checkout first to have each item scanned one by one, then your routine grocery shopping trip is pretty much the same as it’s been for decades. Amazon now hopes its Dash Cart will represent a high-tech grocery shopping upgrade that will last. And if these new shopping carts can make it easier to use coupons – that’s one grocery routine most shoppers would be happy to stick with.

Image source: Amazon

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