Amazon and Panera, the US bakery-cafe chain, have teamed up to help customers pay for orders and access rewards with just the palm of their hands. Apparently, one in five Americans visit a Panera bakery-cafe every quarter. That’s over 66 million Americans dining in or taking away at more than 2,100 locations across the country. The fast-casual restaurant chain has its MyPanera loyalty program, which has more than 52 million members, each with access to personalised rewards. Amazon One, the pal
, the palm recognition service that lets customers enter, identify, and pay will be linked to the MyPanera loyalty programme. How it works Customers who want to enrol in Amazon One and link their MyPanera account simply need to hover their palm over the Amazon One device in store, and a Panera associate will help them to get signed up. Customers can choose loyalty linking, payment, or both. According to Amazon, this integration addresses a major pain point for customers, as most of them prefer to skip loyalty programs and not deal with the sign up and redemption process. But with this initiative, the enrollment process is easier. Another factor has been that redeeming rewards often requires customers opening menus in a mobile app, finding email vouchers, or physical coupons. Fast expansion Amazon’s palm-scanning or cashier-less checkout technology is in more than 200 establishments in and outside the company, according to Dilip Kumar, Vice President, AWS Applications, as quoted by Reuters. Kumar mentioned that the company is widening the deployment of its contactless technology with existing customers. In June last year, the company said that more than 69 locations in the U.S. and UK had such technology. Although Amazon is expanding in payments, it’s lean times for the brand as well, with 9,000 more job cuts coming soon, totalling 27,000 cuts since November. It has been reported that some of these job cuts are happening at AWS, a cloud computing unit of which Kumar is a part of. Just Walk Out technology When it comes to physical retail technology, Just Walk Out (JWO) technology is something that Amazon pioneered with its Amazon Go stores in 2018. These stores used a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning algorithms to detect when customers take items from shelves and automatically charge their Amazon accounts when they leave the store. But all is not well on this front. The company recently announced that it will be closing eight Amazon Go stores located in Seattle, San Francisco and New York City. The company used to operate 29 of these stores, they will now only operate 21. According to Brittain Ladd, a business leader at BCL Consulting, he feels that these Amazon Go stores have not resonated with consumers, that they are incredibly expensive to build and operate, and that the technology has failed to increase sales. Focusing on fundamentals In a recent LinkedIn post, Ladd cited businesses like 7-Eleven, Casey’s and Yesway, which are leading convenience stores which do not feature technology like Amazon Go stores, but yet continue to retain and attract new customers. He believes that this is because these companies understand ‘what customers want and they provide it to them – snacks, pizza, gasoline, groceries, value, a fun customer experience and convenience’. In his opinion, technology is not enough to succeed in retail. He suggests that instead of building Amazon Go stores, the company should have just acquired convenience stores like 7-Eleven and installed JWO technology inside the stores they acquired. A nuanced perspective In terms of the Amazon and Panera partnership, Ladd feels this collaboration is a natural fit for Amazon. “Amazon is one of the leading technology innovators in the world and the company understands the importance of removing friction and increasing customer experience. Panera made a wise choice,” he told Inside Retail. It has been stated that Amazon could be deploying its palm recognition payment services in locations such as sports stadiums, airports and other retail chains too. Ladd feels that the only challenge for Amazon is that some companies might avoid doing business with Amazon out of fear they will learn their strengths and weaknesses, and use the information against them. “That’s false. Wherever customers engage in retail, sports, or entertainment events like concerts, Amazon’s palm recognition payment system can be adopted. This is a big opportunity for Amazon,” he concluded.