Amazon Go – but what about the people? / Radio HK3

I’m going to call this out, just like I did back in 2009 when I curated the Retail Store of the Future exhibition , the future of the routine stuff we buy in stores is going to be automated, mechanised and stuffed full of new tech, because it can and because we want it to – I know some of you are going to yell you don’t, but if enough of us truly passionately didn’t want it, then we wouldn’t let it happen.

This morning Amazon Go announced  its newest foray into retail, a fully automated physical bricks and mortar supermarket that allows customers to swipe themselves into the store, shop for items, put them in their basket and then leave the store without having to physically pay.

Behind the scenes the same technology that’s being used in autonomous cars is plying its computer vision and sensor fusion to spy on you (with our permission) to watch and figure out what we’re taking and then debit our account for the cost of it.

Putting the tech to one side, behind this tech laden experience Amazon is moving away from the typical supermarket that stocks on average 50,000 items to a more discreet stocking level of around 20,000 item representing the most purchased items for that local area and also greatly upping the artisan made, fresh, grazing, multi purchase local angle.

The notion is not to do away with people contact where it matters, but rather to create a frictionless store, where finding and buying what you want is as easy and hassle free as the vast majority of shoppers, in survey after survey, say they want.

Will it work, time will tell. But amazon has the logistics, the tech smarts, the brand and the people to make it happen and either way expect lots more store to move into this new retail frontier.

For more thoughts listen in (15 mins 59 secs) as radio Hong Kong 3’s Phil Whelan and I catch up for our weekly chat and this week tackle the brave new world of retail.