Today, Seattle will see a revolution in the way we shop. Amazon Go, a new concept store from the undisputed kings of e-commerce, Amazon, will open. The idea is that you walk in, take what you want and leave. No check-outs, no queues, and no hassle. For those of us (which is pretty much everyone), who have experienced Carrefour, or Ikea on a busy weekend and shudder at the thought of going anywhere near these places, this is a dream come true... and let me go on record as saying I am a fan.
In an earlier article, I proposed that technology should be beautiful, or invisible, and the clever minds at Amazon have achieved that in the most brilliant way. There are no talking robots, no electronic voices telling you how to behave, just beautiful, invisible technology that is making our lives easier. A beautiful partnership between the physical world and the virtual world.
It is unclear how customers will react to this new development, or if Amazon is going to launch this concept nationally, sell the technology to retailers or if it will feature in their recently acquired Whole Foods branded stores. Indeed it is also not clear if this technology will appeal to customers generally. In a recent survey conducted by Statista (see below), customers seem to be ambivalent to the idea, with 40% even suggesting that Amazon Go will not solve more problems for shoppers than it introduces. I will add weight to my opinion that this is the future (with the upmost respect for the research), by quoting Henry Ford who said - before the launch of the Model T - 'if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me they wanted a faster horse.'
It remains to be seen if Amazon Go's approach will take off, but one thing is for sure, Amazon has moved the dial yet again and this smart technology (or a variant of it), will be adopted given time, in other sectors and formats...
As many retailers (including banks), struggle to balance their physical and digital offers, battle to reduce costs by closing stores and moving to smaller formats, it is interesting that once again, Amazon is going against the grain. Big ‘virtual’ brands are increasingly realising that in order to increase their ‘share-of-wallet’ and cement their relationships with customers, they have to build a physical presence... and many are in fact increasing their physical footprint. Where Amazon has got this right, and where others are getting this wrong is that they are asking a simple question ‘How can we do retail better?’... and in doing so, they are redefining customer experience... not by removing people, from their stores and cutting costs, but by assigning people to help people - personally... and by using technologies to replace the mundane, frustrating and distracting aspects of retailing... all the time, learning more about our behaviours and preferences.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to see other retailers and especially Banks following suit and challenging the status quo?
About the Author
Nicholas Griffin is Global Strategy Director at I-AM (www.i-amonline.com), one of the world's leading customer experience design agencies. Information on how to contact Nick is in the footer of this web site .