A Tale of Two Seattle Retail Pilot Stores

Earlier this month, I visited Amazon Go and Starbucks Roastery. They’re at opposite ends of the technology/human spectrum. Starbucks’ expert enthusiasts romance the details of coffee as they slow-pour hot water over it, while Amazon keeps people nearly invisible (there’s someone standing quietly at the entrance and another person asking for photo ID near the alcohol). 


Go and Roastery are different in other ways, too. Go is almost as bright and antiseptic as the 7 Eleven stores Amazon now puts Lockers in. That’s why the personality it puts into otherwise basic signs is refreshing. It’s an attention to copy detail not all retailers do this well. Roastery is a richer experience, layered in dimensions of heights, sounds, scents, and tastes. Panoramic photography nods to Starbucks’ history and edible and non-edible merchandise brings the brand to life.

Finally, there’s a more important way these two stores represent the bifurcation of retail happening quickly. Amazon Go is about speed and shopping alone, both of which often are enabled by technology. Starbucks Roastery is about slowing down to immerse in entertainment, inspiration, and education, all of which is most meaningfully experienced when people play leading roles. There’s a time and place for both.