In my recent post on machine vision, sensors and their potential to transform business - Every company is a camera company - I covered the vast possibility of abundant, connected sensors in retail environments.
Since then, Amazon have shown how far ahead of the curve they are by actually launching a new grocery concept largely enabled via sensors above shelves.
Amazon Go is likely sending shock waves through incumbent retailer boardrooms. It’s worth remembering that while the technology and patents that Amazon have employed are critical, they also wield the advantage of not having to use them within a ‘legacy infrastructure’ of old shelves, traditional grocery product lines, employees and customers. For now, their customers will be Amazon employees who you’d hope will behave themselves and play by the new rules of Go-style retail (here’s what happens if civilians try and visit today).
While Amazon Go is billed as a ‘grocery store’, from this side of the pond, it looks a lot closer to Pret a Manger than Walmart. It’s clear they’ve streamlined product lines around convenience (not just technology), with some kitchen work going on to put fresh sandwiches on the shelves. Similarly, most products appear to be fully packaged, ‘for one’ meals or meal kits. For those in metropolitan centres for whom the likes of Deliveroo, Hello Fresh and Instacart are becoming a feature of everyday life, this might well be the way they want to shop.
But for lots of people, there are going to be issues with such limitations. If everyone who enters the store has to have an Amazon account, app and associated bank card to automatically pay for their picks, do young children have to be left outside like pets? What about shopping with my non-Amazon-enabled friends? What if I don’t want a meal for one ready to throw in a wok?
What if I’d prefer to chop my own damn onions?
Amazon Go clearly nails one of the big jobs of food retail — the quick fix for today’s lunch, dinner, particularly for the time-poor city-dweller. But there are plenty of other outcomes that the likes of Tesco et al fulfil, and those are going to need a different approach. What’s clear is that once you’ve got the sort of sensor data that Amazon is collecting from its shelves and in-store cameras, you can start to create new low-friction retail experiences in grocery and beyond that better fit to people’s everyday lives, and help them to achieve the outcomes they are trying to achieve.
To find out more about our work within the retail landscape in heightening the in-store experience and about our approach to Outcome-Driven Innovation, drop us a line.
Original content by George Proudfoot, first featured on Medium
Image courtesy of Amazon (Introducing Amazon Go)