"We see Amazon as having to invest between $0.5 billion and $3 billion in building these 3,000 stores", analysts led by Brian Nowak wrote Thursday.
Amazon unveiled the first such store near its headquarters in Seattle in 2016 and has since announced two additional sites in its hometown and one in Chicago. Los Angeles and NY have already been rumoured as cities to host Amazon Go stores. Overhead cameras, weight sensors and deep learning technology detect merchandise that shoppers take from or return to shelves and keep track of the items selected in a virtual cart.
Amazon has been quite cautious in its roll-out of Amazon Go stores that replace the cashier with a smartphone app.
An Amazon representative told Business Insider the company does not comment on "rumours or speculation".
Amazon wants to have at least 10 stores open by the end of this year, then 50 in 2019, then possibly a rapid expansion to about 3,000 by 2021, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The target locations make it less of a threat to suburban gas station-convenience store combinations and more of a threat to big cities' quick-service eateries, such as Subway Restaurants, Panera Bread Co. and Pret a Manger.More news: All new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR
Amazon Go is the most distinctive of all of its physical stores.
Whatever Amazon ultimately plans in rolling out Amazon Go, retailers of all stripes are already keeping a close watch. Amazon's other brick-and-mortar initiatives include about 20 bookstores around the USA and the natural grocery chain Whole Foods Market, acquired a year ago. It would also change Amazon's business, putting more focus on its physical stores. Shoppers download the Amazon Go app and scan a QR code to enter the store. "If we offer a me-too product, it's not going to work", he said.
If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from his or her virtual cart. Prepared foods also have wider profit margins than groceries, which would help decrease the time it takes for the stores to become profitable.
Its first location in downtown Seattle cost over $1 million in hardware, according to Bloomberg.
Driving Amazon Go's checkout-free shopping experience is Amazon's "Just Walk Out" technology.