Could you imagine going through your day without a single human interaction, even down to that brief moment between yourself and the cashier at your local supermarket as you buy that pint of milk you inevitably forgot?

That reality came one more step closer this week, with the launch of the Amazon Go shop in Seattle. The store, which is situated on the first floor of Amazon HQ, allows shoppers to grab a bag, walk in, pick up their shopping and walk out the door without a single checkout, line or staff member.

How Amazon Go Works

Shoppers set up an Amazon Go account on the store’s app. Cameras and sensors fitted around the shop – which sells mainly food and drink – measures the size, shape and depth of the items in your bag, totting up your total as you go.

When you leave the shop your Amazon automatically charges your account – it’s that simple.

There are, obviously, still a few snags. One journalist reviewing the store managed to accidentally ‘steal’ a yoghurt that was not picked up and therefore was not charged. When she tried to report the error, she found no way for customers to do so.

Amazon’s response? That it happened ‘so rarely’ that they didn’t bother to create such a reporting feature – a bold statement at this beta testing stage.

But what does Amazon Go mean for the future of retail?

Automation vs. Interaction

In retail, the lines between online and offline become increasingly less clear. The very fact that online giant Amazon has invested in a bricks and mortar concept is a clear demonstration of this.

While automation allows for speed and efficiency, will shoppers miss the small touches that only human interaction can deliver, such as a friendly smile or kind comment? Only time will tell.

What is certain is that both online and bricks and mortar retailers will have to rethink the way they use their space both online and offline, whether to deliver convenience and efficiency to customers, or to deliver opportunities to engage with a brand or product in non-traditional way or memorable experiences that will drive footfall and loyalty.

What Are The Benefits for Retail?

Research has shown that the further shoppers are removed from the ‘pain’ of the physical act of reaching into a purse or wallet and paying with cash or chip and pin, the more they spend. Abstract forms of payment, like the ‘just walk out’ method at Amazon Go almost entirely remove this connection, so customers are more likely to splurge.

While there is a fear that automation will kill off the need for traditional retail jobs, it is far more likely that humans will be reassigned to customer service and engagement roles, where they can elevate the brand by delivering the best service possible and experiences that build loyalty and trust. The machines may be coming, but they can’t do without us just yet.

Want to know more about how new technology might impact or benefit your business? Why not contact the Retail Room team today


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