Amazon recently launched their Amazon Go concept store in Seattle. It’s a grocery store with a difference. Customers who check-in on arrival are then followed around the store by cameras that automatically record the items they pick up and place in their basket. The customer is charged directly to their account as they leave the store – there is no need for any checkout line.
It’s sounds amazing and it demonstrates that, once again, Amazon is pushing innovation in retail, but of course there are questions. What if you are shopping with your kids and they are collecting items as well as you? Can the system determine who is in your party or will it base purchases on all items that enter your basket no matter who takes them from a shelf? If that’s the case then how can shoplifting be prevented, as customers could easily pick up an item, walk around the corner and slip it into their jacket rather than the basket?
I’m sure they have been thinking about all these issues and the purpose of a concept store is to iron out all these issues before rolling out the format on a wider basis. But all that technology must also be expensive. Checkout assistants are not expensive employees to have around so I’m sure that the more traditional in-store format will exist for some time, until this technology is so flawless that retailers decide they can no longer avoid it.
But what else will take place in 2017? Forbes has issued their retail predictions and there are a few points that I agree with:
- Beacons are on the way out; I don’t know anyone who really liked beacons. They are a great idea in theory, but they always depends on shoppers setting up their phone with an app and logging in… I’m a regular shopper and I hardly bother so who was really ever walking around stores searching for beacons with special offers?
- Better Mobile use in store; partly because of point one on beacons, but also because retailers are desperate to improve the in-store experience. They can’t get customers to download and use apps unless there is really something in it for the customer to do that. Big benefits that some retailers have experimented with is avoiding checkout lines by allowing customers to checkout with their phone and offering very personalized offers and recommendations – deals just for that single customer based on their own shopping history. Add the opportunities for Augmented Reality and I think mobile use is going to get much bigger in 2017.
- Event shopping; customers are generally finding the online experience better. The retailers know them better, the offers are better online, and there is no need to go outside to a shopping mall. I think that along with an improvement in the way that mobiles improve the in-store experience we will see a return to “event” shopping where there are distinct benefits of being there in person. Bookstores have use this tactic for years now to fight off online retailers, but now it’s likely that retailers across all sectors will need to offer something more experiential if they want customers to also use their stores – even if it’s as simple as wine tasting or free pizza slices.
The drones and checkout-free stores from Amazon may capture many of the headlines, but I believe there is going to be a very different customer experience across many retailers in 2017. What do you think? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.
Photo by SDOT Photos licensed under Creative Commons.