As of today, the grocery shopping experience has fundamentally changed. Long lines were formed outside as tech giant Amazon opened its first grocery store without cash registers and shopping carts this morning. This 1,800 square-feet store based in Seattle allows customers to walk in, take what they like, put it in their bag, and walk out without paying— “Just walk out” is what it is being called. Upon entering the store, customers are required to scan their Amazon Go smart phone app at a row of gates, much similar to subway stations, and purchases are billed to their credit cards when they leave. This store uses hundreds of ceiling cameras and electronic sensors on shelves to identify each customer and track the items as they roam the store. Not only are sophisticated computer vision and machine learning incorporated into tracking customers and items, but the machine learning technology can track customer behavior and preference as well. This “grab-and-go” concept has been an idea of future retail for some time now and eliminates the cash register/cashier portion of a grocery shopping experience most customers dread.
Though this technology is a huge relief and convenience on the consumer side of grocery shopping, it raises concern on the supply side—cashiers. According to the US Department of Labor, there were a little over 3.5 million cashiers in 2016. This new style of shopping eliminates the role of a cashier and put their jobs at risk, much similar to big retail stores considering autonomous technology for inventory and stocking functions. For the time being, Amazon stated that this technology will only change the role of an employee such as restocking shelves or troubleshooting technical problems for customers or checking IDs at the alcohol aisle. This also raises question about how advanced the technology is in terms of correctly billing the right customer or the right item or being able to identify shoplifting. The store has been open since Monday, and there has not been any major reports or concerns about it. Miniscule technical problems may arise, but the entire concept is new and different and appealing. Brick-and-mortar stores have been a victim of change in consumer behavior and preference to more on-demand and e-commerce type shopping like Amazon offers, so this new store should only raise more concern for traditional retail stores. Consumer preferences change with time and technology. For a business to survive in such a competitive market such as the retail industry, it needs to adapt to consumer preference and implement technology that can improve efficiency and productivity.
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