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Is ‘Amazon Go’ Where Retail Is Really Headed?

by Lisa Hayden
Is 'Amazon Go' Where Retail Is Really Headed?

The Amazon empire has been reigning supreme for a number of years, taking down many in its path with no mercy for small local retailers or even popular high-street stores. Most of what you find on the high-street, you can get on Amazon for a cheaper price. Their quest is to become your first port of call for anything you may need, from jeans to kitchen utensils. 

So, it’s no surprise that Amazon have decided to turn their attention to something we all need to survive – food. Yes, Amazon Go ​​is set to revolutionise the way we food shop. So, what exactly is it, and will it be as popular as predicted? Let’s take a more in-depth look at their newest venture. 

What Is Amazon Go?

No lines, no checkouts. That’s the slogan for the Amazon Go food store. It may seem like an oxymoron given everything we know about retail shopping. However, the concept is so: walk in the store, put the items you want into your reusable shopper bag and walk out the store. The idea is that customers will be sent a receipt linked to their Amazon account, charging the purchase to their account directly. 

The Technology Behind It

Believe it or not, Amazon Go uses the same type of technology used in self-driving cars. It’s also heavily reliant on artificial intelligence. This sophisticated technology is used to track the user journey, as well as the products. All of the products have distinguishable codes in the form of dots. This can then be tracked by sensors wherever the product goes. It can even tell if the product was taken from the shelf and then put back, or whether it was out into the customers bag. Hundreds of cameras and sensors are in the store, to keep track of every person who enters and every item on the shelf. 

Customers will need to use an application downloaded on their smartphone, made possible by advances in mobile app​​​​ development. As they enter the store, their QR code is then scanned and the customer’s account is identified. Then they’re ready to browse and shop at their leisure, adding products into their virtual ‘cart’. When the shopping is done, they just leave the store. No need for cashiers, queues or checkouts. They won’t even need to re-scan their QR code when leaving. 

When they return home, customers can check their list of products against the total spend on their Amazon account. Their account is directly linked to all major banks, credit and debit cards.

Was It Inevitable?

How we pay for our purchases has completely changed. It’s rare that we pay for products with cash, in fact, many people don’t even carry cash when they’re out-and-about. More often than not, we pay with credit or debit cards. Even more recently, it’s via contactless payment or on our smartphones with Google Pay or Apple Pay. 

Therefore, it could be said that such a move was a natural progression. Nobody likes the idea of being stuck in a long queue or having card issues once they get to the checkout stage. Amazon Go has completely removed these factors from shopping, allowing for a seamless experience that’s quick and easy. 

What Effect Will It Have On Retailers?

Competition has always been fierce when it comes to supermarkets, and it’s certainly becoming less of a monopoly market. Amazon currently has four Amazon Go stores ​​– three in Seattle and one in Chicago. Not only is this additional competition for the sector, but it also puts pressure on existing chains to up their technology. Though practically every supermarket now features self-scan checkouts or smart-shopping scanners, none can rival what Amazon Go offers in terms of customer experience. 

Similarly, if supermarkets were to try and rival Amazon, it could have a catastrophic effect for staff. They could be made redundant, as many already have with the introduction of self-scan machines. An Amazon Go store completely removes the need for staff, beside perhaps some security guards and staff on the shop floor to assist customers. 

Retailers will find it incredibly hard to keep up with the technology Amazon Go have achieved. Though they have some time before Amazon Go becomes an immediate threat. Amazon Go plan to expand their stores by 2021, but an exact number and the locations are yet to be revealed. It may be a matter of years before existing supermarkets can match the technology of Amazon, or perhaps they never will; relying on repeat customers who still want to shop the ‘old-fashioned way’.

What Does The Future Of Retail Look Like?

Although Amazon are solely trialling out this shopping technique for food stores, there’s no reason as to why it couldn’t be applied to other stores. With this in mind, the future of retail does look extremely exciting. We may soon be able to go clothes shopping without the need to wait in line. This could also go some way in reviving high-streets as customers would be drawn back in thanks to no queues or checkouts - but there would need to be significant investment for this to become viable. 

In addition, Amazon Go have made sure there is no room for human error with their sophisticated technology. However, this isn’t to say that some mistakes couldn’t be made. There’s often frustration with shoppers when it comes to self-scan machines, with certain glitches stopping the experience from being as smooth as predicted. The same could be applied to Amazon Go, though every item may be trackable, there are inescapably going to be some issues with the technology. This could lead to an increase in theft and complaints from shoppers who experience problems, like being charged for the wrong item, for example. Such issues need be ironed out as soon as they arise. 

Though no technology is ever guaranteed to run smoothly, Amazon Go have created a system that can run as seamlessly as possible to allow the best experience for users. The future of retail is surely going to adopt this new approach – that many would suggest was inevitable anyway. 

Richard Meadow

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Richard Meadow is a Freelance writer interested in technology and enjoys researching new subjects to write about. Considering past, present and potential future trends is a keen interest of his and he’s always looking for new gadgets to review.


Richard Meadow

Twitter:@meadow_richard

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