How Amazon made fun of everyone with Amazon Go

Talk about a slap in the rear to their competitors and technologists alike. I think there's an old saying that goes something like "The tool doesn't make you, you make the tool." A little over a month later and we're still talking and wondering about Amazon's new view on shopping (specifically grocery shopping).

In case you need a refresher:

Amazon Go reveals an amazing expression of general sentiment in the tech scene; how did they envision new tech to disrupt an established industry. But I'm not so sure it really is new tech?

Technical Innovation vs Experiential Innovation

One of the most important aspects to disrupting an established business model is usually preceived as having the right set of tools and technology—they are typically the enablers, especially for digital innovation. In the instance of Amazon Go, was this actually the case? Was it the technology...or the execution?

"The tool doesn't make you, you make the tool." 

Amazon Go is a prime example of one of the concepts we talk about at Mendix: Digital innovation and disruption can also be about how you can reimagine a customer's or a user's experience; technology can enable unique experiences that are disruptive, but are rarely in of themselves disruptive. If you're not convinced, some of today's hottest companies disrupted their industry by leveraging existing technology but rethought the experience:

  • Netflix—digital streaming, no more brick n' mortar stores
  • Uber—digitizing cab hailing
  • iTunes—digital music store at your fingertips

Now, I am not an engineer, but when I look at the Amazon Go experience and I look at the feature set and capabilities of Mendix, I think we could build this experience using our latest tools...and we announced Mendix 7 mid-last year!


My instincts tell me there are 3 core technologies in play with Amazon Go: Beacons (or NFC), HD Cameras, & big data being crunched in the cloud. The cameras are simply there to capture the information of what grocery the user is picking up and relays this information to the cloud combining the information of the beacon data to determine the shoppers location and intent. Now...what can't Mendix do to enable this type of experience and innovation?

With Mendix 7...

  • you get beacon support to deliver location-based experiences that communicate with your apps.
  • have out-of-the box connecters to IBM watson & AWS to crunch big data

So the tech exists and this sounds pretty simple to me (sure hindsight is 20/20). But why did it take so long to come to fruition? Because innovation calls for differentiated thinking in not just what tools we use to drive product innovation, but in thinking about how our users and customers interact with our product.

So while Amazon was shocking the world with this revolutionary new experience, the technology behind it is less so. When you think of driving innovation in your company or team, don't make the mistake that the tools and technology are the sole enablers—often the touchpoint experience is where innovation is needed the most!