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Amazon Go: nothing you can’t do already?

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There is only one story dominating retail this week: Amazon Go. It is great to see that the ‘future of retail’ has finally opened its doors – a year late – to the great unwashed. Ironic, too that there was a queue to get in. Well, it made me laugh.

The fact that it has taken nearly 12 more months to get it ready for the thronging hoard than predicted shows just how difficult it is to get this idea to work well. That alone will have many retailers quaking in their boots.

“If this is the future of retail, how the f*** are we going to make that happen with our budget?”

But worry not. Amazon Go is the future of retail, but it is way ahead of where any one can rightly expect to be. I would be very surprised if we see another such store outside the West Coast of the US this year, let alone spreading globally.

What it does show, however, is that shoppers want a change. They want to combine the mobile, online and in-store experience and get something better out of shopping. Of course, not having to queue to pay and leave is very appealing, but it doesn’t necessarily have to involve state-of-the-art (and slightly creepy) scanning technology. Checking in when you arrive with mobile and making that a part of an easier way to pay, also doesn’t have to involve a massive technology investment.

Much of what Amazon Go store actually does can sort of be done with existing – and more affordable – technology. Geo-fencing technology would let any retailer check in a customer as they walked in the door. Linking that to an app – and getting customer opt in – would allow that to push offers to the phone. Tie that up with tech such as used by Tesco to scan your shopping as you go and just scan at the phone at the end doesn’t remove queuing, but makes it very much quicker.

These two things alone match Amazon Go and could, in theory, be rolled out by thousands of retailers right now.

I am sure that, with Amazon Go hitting the headlines, it will have the galvanising effect of propelling technology vendors and retailers to finds ways to match and ape what Amazon is doing – and customers will benefit.

And it needs to happen sharpish. Before Amazon Go hit the headlines, the news was dominated by retail sales figures for Christmas, peak and 2017 – and it wasn’t pretty.

Sales growth slowed, analysts downgraded high street store operators and even online didn’t delight as much as it usually does. Mobile offered a small glimmer of hope: it was mainly responsible for dragging retailing figures up, seeing a 79% increase in sales via the channel, but overall things were muted. 2018 doesn’t look much better.

One of the key things that retailers need to crack to make sure the year ahead isn’t as bad as many fear is to master customer service – especially on the high street. Amazon Go may well provide the impetus to make that happen. Remember, the technology exists to make this happen right now.

• IMAGE geralt on Pixabay

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