Amazon’s mega deal announced Friday to acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion is a logical step toward a future we first glimpsed last December. When completed, the acquisition instantly makes Amazon one of the largest grocers in the country with its 450-plus locations acting as a local base for order online/pick up in store—largely for affluent urban customers. Longer range, however, for payments and the evolution of retail in general, the deal could be, as payments consultant Richard Crone told Digital Transactions, “a massive, Richter-scale event that will shake not only grocers but nearly every retailer and all those in the payment space.”
Right before Christmas, the e-commerce pioneer, which had been slowly establishing a presence in the physical world via bookstores and small grocery locations, opened a convenience store in Seattle as a pilot to test technology that enables customers to pick items from the shelves and walk out without standing in a checkout line. The combination of camera and motion sensing technology found in self-driving cars combined with smart shelf technology and an online mobile app is driving Amazon Go’s “just walk out” vision. If successful (and there have been early hiccups), Amazon could use Whole Foods to test and roll the technology out to an upscale clientele in nearly any part of the country—or nationwide.