Ready, Set, Go
Imagine a scenario where you walk into a store, put a few items into your handbag/manbag, and walk out. No, you haven’t imagined the opening sequence of an episode of 24 Hours in Police Custody, this is the premise of a revolutionary approach to high street shopping from Amazon.
On the surface, Amazon Go is a regular bricks and mortar shop. You’ll soon find it on the high street nestled snugly between familiar outlets such as Tesco Express and Starbucks. It may resemble a regular high-street mini-market like its neighbours: Amazon Go stores have a door, they have shelves, they have actual tangible products that you can feel, smell, and lick (not lick) to your heart’s content, but that’s where the similarities end. You enter, grab what you want, and leave without ever paying a cashier or using a self-service checkout.
Actually, don’t. You haven’t stolen anything. Of course you’ve paid for your items, and here’s how. As an Amazon Go customer, you will have an account and the Go app on your smartphone. Scanning your phone on the special terminal at the entrance to the store grants you access. From here, you can browse the aisles and anything you pick up is automagically added your virtual cart and your account is billed when you leave.
This “magic” is based on something Amazon calls “Just Walk Out Technology” – something that they liken to the tech that’s used in self-driving cars. It recognises the items that you are carrying in order to bill you accordingly when you are done shopping. The whole idea is to provide another layer of convenience for the consumer; another time-saving device for your busy, hectic life. No lines, no checkouts, no registers.
Man vs machine
Of course, no checkouts translates to no cashiers, which in turn translates to fewer jobs, and the technology has already faced criticism for its potential to kill off jobs in the retail industry. If other retailers decide to follow suit and implement automated checkout technology, there is a possibility for hundreds of thousands of retail job losses in the future.
Alongside this is the potential to lose the personal touch that so many people expect from high street shopping – the attentive floor staff who ensure that their customers leave the store happy, the friendly faces at the checkout and those who swoop in to save us when technology goes haywire (I’m looking at you, self-service machines). These small details are things that, when done right, keep customers coming back time after time, and if they were to disappear, shopping would without doubt be a colder experience all-round.
Nonetheless, the “Just Walk Out Technology” concept has wide-reaching scope in not just retail, but also in the logistics sector. For example, in stock warehouses, the technology could be used to automatically monitor stock levels, saving precious time and reducing human error.
Are we ready for this type of technology to take over the high street? We’d better be, because Amazon has recently had a number of trademark applications for Go approved in the UK, which means that we could be “just walking out” very soon.