Disruption Alert: AmazonGo is revolutionising the good old-fashioned grocery shopping!
Going to a grocery store has long been a rather banal hallmark of the modern human existence, one that hasn’t changed all that much in the last century. Indeed, of all the inconvenient aspects of modern life that needed to be overhauled, grocery stores probably weren’t that high on anyone’s list.
Enter: Amazon. The company that started as a humble bookseller appears to be continuing its quest to overhaul how we buy just about everything. First came the Amazon Dash button, meaning you’d never run out of toilet paper again. Then came delivery-by-drone, which just this past week became a reality after being in the works for some time. And now it’s Amazon GO, which promises that you’ll never have to interact with a human being while buying milk, eggs, and vegetables for dinner ever again.
In a Nutshell, What is Amazon GO?
The basic premise, as explained by Mashable, is simple: “At Amazon’s stores, customers don’t need to wait in line or check out formally. There are no cashiers. Customers simply use Amazon’s new Go app. The store is powered by what Amazon has dubbed its “Just Walk Out” technology, which includes computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning.”
A smartphone app that tracks every single thing you pick up and leave the store with sounds pretty straightforward. However, the implications and questions this move by Amazon raises are bigger. It’s unclear at this point if Amazon plans to develop this technology and then license it to existing retailers, or if it intends to open a chain of its own retail stores (they’ve opened one in Seattle). If it turns out to be the latter, major supermarket chains have good reason to be alarmed. Amazon has a reputation of crowding out established industries, and there is reason to believe—given the high consumer favorability and Amazon’s strong association with convenience—they could do that here in the UK.
This also has major implications for the labor market. While we’ve already seen some innovation in this space with self-checkout aisles, anyone who has ever used such a machine knows that a staff member is never far off in the likely event that one of the machines doesn’t work. If Amazon gets its way, no human employees will be necessary. “While the primary driver behind Amazon’s new store concept is to speed the shopping experience by cutting down the long lines usually observed in convenience stores, cutting labor costs is also a factor,” Forbes wrote. “Amazon usually operates at razor thin margins, and cutting an employee or two can make the difference between making and losing money.”
So What Do We as Shoppers Think?
Aside from the questions around disrupting the supermarket sector and the general trend of stripping away minimum wage work, another big question arises: Will consumers like the idea? While we all like things to be streamlined and convenient, the experience of going into a shop to buy basic dinner ingredients isn’t massively complicated to begin with. Discussing the move on Mashable’s podcast “MashTalk”, one commentator noted he wasn’t particularly convinced that the environment would match the technology: “Consumers are much more accepting of a technological approach to shopping in a place that seems them innovative, as opposed to a place where they buy their milk and bread. Where it’s so basic, this change may scare people a little bit.”
Other questions, like how they will prevent shoplifting and also sidestep the privacy issue of a store knowing every single thing you’ve bought, will also need to be answered. But one thing we can tell from history: When Amazon decides to do something, they usually make a big play of it. And right now, it appears that Amazon wants to do groceries.
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