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Amazon Go – the ‘concept car’ of retailing
Jenny Myers

Amazon Go is the newest shopper marketing experiment to be undertaken by one of the world’s largest online retailers. The concept merges the benefits of both online and offline retailing to create a shopper-focussed solution that reduces the hassle of going to the shops by streamlining the physical experience. Currently still in Beta testing, Amazon Go is a bricks and mortar store in Seattle that allows shoppers (currently Amazon employees) to enter the store, select the items they want to buy and walk out without paying. The shopper’s smart phone then identifies the products selected and charges the shopper’s Amazon account accordingly.

This technology could revolutionise the retail environment and primary function of charging for goods and services (even if it does feel a little like something out of The Minority Report). The convenience of being able to walk in and out of store with whatever you like and then being charged for it remotely sounds like a shoplifter’s nightmare! However, is this technology actually new and is it sustainable?

The convenience of no queuing sounds hugely appealing, but I wonder if Amazon have missed the point? Is the queue and the checkout really the problem that affects the physical shopping experience for many people? In my experience, the queue is most certainly an inconvenience, but I am not sure that my shopping behaviour is dictated by whether I have to queue in a supermarket or not. My choice to purchase on the internet or in store is a much more complex decision making process. And it depends on the experience that I need to make my purchase.

It’s like concept cars. They do an amazing job of showcasing new technology, materials and styling, but are they actually practical for the job that we need them to do i.e. get us to work and home again? Probably not. Hence concept cars don’t come to market, a more practical, mass market version does instead.

In my opinion, Amazon Go is the concept car of retail experience. It demonstrates to us that the technology for non-queuing check out is possible, but ultimately the practicalities of installing this technology on a mass scale comes with some pretty insurmountable problems. Will this then just result in a watered down version? Will it encourage shoppers to buy your brand? Will it increase frequency or weight of purchase? Will it help brands move away from a price orientated strategy? Will retailers improve the shopping experience in other ways? I think not.

This is a very clever PR stunt by Amazon but I do wonder if this store concept is just a gimmick or whether actually at the true heart of this project, is a more commercial move by Amazon to position itself as a provider for retailing solutions which would mean it actually isn’t shopper focussed at all!

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