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Amazon Go trial shows how mobile, online and real-world stores can deliver what consumers actually want

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The launch of Amazon Go, the trial grocery store in Seattle in the US demonstrates not only the possible near future of the bricks and mortar store but also shows how the retail giant understands what consumers want.

The trial store sees shoppers logged into their Amazon Go app simply tap into the store and then picking their groceries, putting them in their bag and then leaving – with no queuing and no checkout – with the cost being debited from their one-click pay account on leaving.

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The checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When the customer is finished shopping, they can just leave the store. Shortly after, Amazon will charge their Amazon account and send a receipt to the app.

The store offers a range of snacks and artisan bakery goods – things that shoppers typically want to grab and run with – but there is no reason why the technology can’t be used in any kind of store.

While the technology is a beta and Amazon hasn’t disclosed the cost of the trial, what Amazon taps into is shift in consumer demand for the speed and convenience found online in the real world. While many write off the High Street store, it is in fact one of the most preferred ways to go shopping for many consumers. What needs to change is how it is integrated with mobile technology. Amazon plays to this with aplomb.

According to Hugh Fletcher, Digital Business Consultant, Salmon: “The imminent launch of Amazon Go signifies a move away from traditional bricks and mortar stores and towards a new era of shopping. Even if a shopping experience is in-person, not online, shoppers are constantly telling us that they want the same speed, convenience and user-friendly experience that online and mobile shopping provides. As retailers move away from traditional stores, we expect technologies like Programmatic Commerce – the concept of automatic purchasing through connected devices – to dominate the sector.”

Salmon’s own research finds that 57% of UK shoppers will be ready for fully automated purchases through IoT devices within two years. Programmatic can therefore drive a new age of shopping that is IoT-enabled, and allow retailers to feed the modern day customer who is now accustomed to a more direct, quick and convenient method of shopping.

“Amazon has been smart here – the brand was born digitally but knows that the future of retail is a perfect mix of online and physical,” says Fletcher. “Amazon Go is just a trial but we would expect it to catch on.”

This is where bricks and mortar stores can go from being threatened underdogs to holding the key to future retail, believes David Saenz, UK MD of on-demand delivery platform, Stuart.

“This is where those retail stores who might have felt threatened by online aggregators, actually hold the advantage,” he says. “With already established physical shops that can act as central-city warehouses, the high street is perfectly poised to cater to this demand.”

Rupal Karia, Managing Director of Retail and Hospitality, UK and Ireland at Fujitsu adds: “The days of tilling as we know it are numbered and Amazon Go brings us to that day that much sooner than perhaps imagined. In most cases, shop processes have been the same for decades; the launch of Amazon Go once again demonstrates how Amazon is pushing the boundaries of retailing as we know it – this time changing the model of a physical store.”

He continues: “Although Amazon Go only has the one trial store, it is an example of how retailers can harness technology and embrace innovation in their physical stores to create that invaluable seamless customer journey. Now that the level of customers’ expectations is at an all-time high, retailers need to find ways to match it and ensure they are differentiating themselves from their competitors. Shopping instore is now very much experiential, and by bringing innovative new ways to shop retailers can enhance that experience to make it more interactive and digitally enabled. Those that do will be the retailers that stand out against a noisy retail landscape.”

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