As the shopper enters the store, they tap their smartphone on the turnstile and shop the store normally, selecting the products they want. When they’re finished, they simply walk out – no waiting in lines, no small talk with the checkout operator, and no waiting for payments to process. Their Amazon accounts are later charged with the purchase amount.
This checkout-free shopping experience is made possible using technologies currently found in self-driving cars like computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning (sounds fancy.) In a nutshell, the technology (aided by your smartphone and the Amazon GO app) detects when you’ve selected a product from the shelf and adds it to your digital basket. If you change your mind and return the product to the shelf, it will simply remove that product from your basket. The first store is currently in Beta testing with Amazon employees and will be operational shortly.
There’s very little information detailing how Amazon plans to roll out this type of shopping format. The company’s spokesperson rejected rumours of an expansion of 2,000 physical stores in the US, and even though there’s been reports a trademark was registered in the UK on December 5th, the reality is that a lot of testing and learning needs to be conducted before they can scale appropriately.
So why should you give a $#&% about Amazon Go?
In all likelihood, this store format won’t be the massive, rapid and tremendous upheaval of the retail landscape that the press are touting (at least in the short term). By their own admission, Amazon are determined to continue testing and learning to make sure they get it right, which will take years for full proof of concept. However, what you should be taking note of is the clear direction Amazon is moving in as a global powerhouse.
Amazon Go (like many other Amazon innovations) aims to meet two consumer desires: Ease and Speed. They are using these deep-seated truths to create differentiated and often defensible brand experiences that truly resonate with consumers. Amazon Dash and Amazon Echo are great examples of this determination to streamline shopping to fit within consumers’ busy lives.
“In 2015 the average shopper spends 5.6 minutes in the store, while in the 1960s this was 13 minutes.”
– The Co-Operative Group’s convenience store retailing research.
Age of Technology
The mass adoption of the internet and mobile technology has kicked the pace of life into hyperdrive and, by default, created an expectation that consumers can have anything in an instant. It isn’t just Amazon looking to tap into these key wants – think ApplePay, Starbucks Order& Pay App, UBER and (closer to home) MyFoodBag Express Bag.
Heck – 10 years ago I was telling clients that people were time-poor and experience-hungry. Today those statements don’t just ring true; they have dramatically intensified. Just think of your own behaviour: how annoyed do you get when your banking app goes offline, or you have to wait 7 minutes for your UBER driver to arrive.
Fun fact for you – 10 years ago the smartphone as we know it hadn’t been invented yet!
Consumers want convenience, and they’re leaning towards retailers and occasions that allow them to shop on their own terms, simply and easily. This demand is contextualised in these figures from a Morning Consult poll which shows that although Black Friday may have better deals, more than half of respondents (56%) say it’s easier to get the products they want on Cyber Monday.
Technology improvements in-store have the ability to make shopping faster, easier and more efficient, says a 2014 Nielsen E-Commerce and New Retail Survey. The research states that 22% of global respondents say they use self-checkout, and nearly two-thirds (65%) are willing to do so in the future. The same report states that using a hand-held store scanner to purchase and avoid checkout lines is used today by only 12% of global respondents, but 70% are willing to give it a try when it is more readily available.
We still crave human interactions
It’s important to recognise that while Amazon is looking to streamline operations, a cashier-less shopping experience doesn’t necessarily mean a people-less experience. Retailers that embrace performance technology should also create value-added offerings for shoppers – concierges, personal shopper assistance, stylists, etc – as these interactions can help create emotional connections that elevate the retail experience.
So ask yourself –
Is your business satisfying the time-stripped needs of your customers?
What’s your convenience strategy?
What investment are you setting aside for technological enhancements?
How are you innovating to supercharge the customer experience?
At the end of the day; you still need to create a great shopping experience – giving customers what they want, when they decide they need it. So take a leaf out of Amazon’s book, and make things simple and easy – but not sterile.
This was originally published on Kerr’s LinkedIn.