Shoplifting and Silence at Amazon Go

Amazon Go is here. One of the biggest tech stories of the year, with far reaching news coverage and of dozens of YouTube videos where people are sharing their experience worldwide.

It’s a perfect example of Amazon further disrupting retail with innovative new technology to forever alter human behavior. “Just Walk Out” technology is the brick & mortar equivalent of “One-Click”, another bold simplification of shopping. And a new era begins.

But something is just not right. There’s a widely reported piece of the experience that many are talking about: a gut reaction that makes people feel like they’ve shoplifted when leaving the store.

“At Amazon Go, checking out feels like — there’s no other way to put it — shoplifting.” -New York Times

Many have taken to YouTube to document their experience and here is some verbatim commentary:


“I still don’t even know if I’ve been charged, I’m going to check my receipt.”

“Now I’m on the app. I’m going to receipts. They still haven’t sent me my receipt… It’s been like 3:00 minutes… (after 2 more minutes of anxiety…) I just got it.”

“Alright, so I just walked out of the store. And it honestly felt like I just robbed something.”

For most people, the feelings associated with inadvertently shoplifting are concern, anxiety or fear, even if momentary. This instant emotional reaction is contrary to how Amazon or any brand wants people to feel when they leave a store. We know from published research by Temkin Group that emotion is the strongest driver of loyalty in the customer experience. Therefore, this negative-emotion, last-impression can have measurable consequences.

OK, I’m not an alarmist. I’m also a big-time Amazon loyalist. So, I appreciate how this will set a new standard for retail, and that Amazon will work out the kinks. But it does give me a window to talk about how they may go about solving this challenge.

A sound.

A sound is a powerful way to turn a moment of anxiety into a moment of opportunity. A sound that is strategically designed to signal recognition, completion of the transaction, a warm farewell that evokes “thank you, please come again”. It’s a lot to convey with a 1-2 second sound, but it is possible. With a well-designed ping of recognition at the moment people leave the store, Amazon Go shoppers will feel instinctively positive rather than instinctively negative.

Think of the emotional satisfaction you get from your iPhone when you hit send on an email. Shooosh… and off it goes. Instant confirmation and satisfaction.

At Made Music Studio we have a saying: “It’s not about the sound, it’s about the experience.” We’re not fans of just adding sound. Sound has to be purposeful and bring value to the experience. It needs to be one that creates the desired emotional response. We call this Next-Level Intuitive™, when sound becomes a primary experience component to convey instinctive recognition, meaning, inflection and tone.

Amazon, and many others, are overlooking the invisible power of sound in experience design. We observe many cases where sound can solve experience challenges, and also where sound is used, but not well-crafted. Either way, emotions are not moving in the right direction, and this is significant.

New SonicPulse® Research from Made Music Studio and Sentient Decision Science has demonstrated the importance of getting sound right in experience design:

We found strong correlation between how sound makes you feel and its impact on future behavior.

“Subconscious Emotional Response to Sound is 86% responsible for Someone’s Conscious Desire to Engage with the Experience or Avoid it.”

Which brings us back to the sound of silence and the feeling of shoplifting at Amazon Go. Where a simple well-designed sound will have measurable impact. It’s a small but important oversight in an otherwise wonderful new experience.


I’d love to hear your thoughts — comment here, on Twitter @KevinPerlmutter or

SonicPulse® Research is a registered trademark of Made Music Studio, Inc

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