We’ve all been there. It’s Saturday afternoon, you fancy doing a bit of shopping and having a bite to eat at that new coffee shop that just opened on your high street. But before you can relax, you could really do with a new coat. After an hour, you have visited four stores and haven’t seen anything that catches your eye, but then you walk into a shop you have never seen before…
The staff are friendly and ask you how your day is going. It’s going well! It’s Saturday, there are several coats in here that look fantastic and you will soon be relaxing on a comfy sofa with your latte. A helpful sales assistant called Lucy accompanies you to the fitting room, carrying the coats for you. You try them on; she chats to you and agrees that the navy one looks just awesome. You are feeling good, really good!
Now it’s time to pay, and everything changes. You got too hot in the changing room, you’re thirsty, you’re tired, and suddenly you just want to get to that coffee shop NOW. You need Lucy to wrap your coat, to take your card, process your purchase, and do everything efficiently so you can get out of there FAST, but the till spits out your card, the barcode doesn’t scan and they only have tiny carrier bags.
Does this sound familiar?
Well, today Amazon opened their first check-out free grocery shop in Seattle, called Amazon Go, which should take all the pain out of shopping.
The concept relies on customers using an Amazon Go smartphone app and passing through a turnstile to enter the store. Once you have selected items from the shelves and exited through the turnstile, you are automatically charged for all purchases. Cameras and sensors keep a check on what customers keep and what they put back to make sure you are only charged for items you keep. Is this the shape of retail to come?
There are clear advantages in speeding up the purchasing process and increasing convenience but one of the joys of being human is to be slightly unpredictable and right now this high-tech new system has to contend with children causing accidental chaos by picking up items and putting them back in the wrong places. We know that, even though technology is leading the way, interaction with other humans is essential for our well-being and a big factor in making us feel good. Historically much of the appeal of retail and leisure destinations is down to the people we meet, so keep an eye on the development of this latest disruptive retail event to see how technology and humans come together.
Anna is an outlet and retail specialist, providing recruitment, consulting and leasing services through her company Intense Retail.