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Amazon passes the Daisy Test – is this the future of retail?

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The Amazon Go pilot store in Seattle is music to my ears. I hate shopping at the best of times, but at this time of year I do all I can to hide from a trip to the mall. So, while it may not even be here in the UK for the next few years, Amazon has filled my heart with joy.

Using sophisticated technology to map what logged-in shoppers are doing will allow shoppers in this one shop to just pick up what they want, put it in their bag and leave. No queues. No payments. No fuss.

The queuing and the paying are my biggest bugbear with shopping – especially for groceries – and I have to say that I haven’t been in an actual supermarket in the real world for many months. But would this sort of tech persuade me (and many others) to start going back to stores?

Well, it passed the ‘Daisy Test’. This is when I explain to my partner Daisy what I am writing about this week in the world of internet retailing and she either gets it or she doesn’t. Usually she doesn’t. This time she did… and then some. She even said it was a good idea.

This encouraged me that Amazon is indeed onto something. But is it? The technology to make this one store happen is at the actual bleeding edge of what is possible – it is all tech from the autonomous car world – and, while there is a great video showing what the store might be like, we have yet to actually see what happens when it is put to use.

But assuming that Amazon can iron out the inevitable tech wrinkles, what it is planning to do is a real game changer for retail and life as we know it. For many almost the entire history of shops and shopping their has been a queue and a payment. Not any more.

And it really does begin to bring all the best bits of the web into the real world. It is no wonder that Amazon picked a convenience store model as its first port of call to trial this: it makes it properly convenient. But you can see that it would pretty much work in any store.

And it is something that consumers want. One of the non-online stories around Black Friday has been the withering review of the store experience delivered by shoppers who actually ventured out into the real world to grab a bargain. They all hate the queues, the poor customer service and the horror of being in the shop with thousands of other feral bargain hunters.

Soon that could well be a thing of the past. So long as you are logged in you can simply grab and go. Of course, the real test of this technology will be how it copes with a Black Friday style peak, but that’s for another day.

What makes Amazon’s pilot all the more interesting is what it can become. Right now it centres on removing the queue and the paying – well the physical act of paying, you still have to pay – but add in access to reviews and recommendations, showrooming and all the other things people do online and you have a total transformation of how people use shops.

According to analyst Forrester, fewer than 20% of brands are tapping into mobile to transform brick-and-mortar shopping experiences. In a new report, Forrester highlights trends on how consumers use mobile and how marketers can unlock the full potential of mobile – online and offline.

It found that 83% of UK online adults use mobile in-store, mainly to compare prices, product information, promotions, or customer reviews.

In turn it will also change how shops work and what shops are for, but overall it is great news for physical retail – even if we don’t yet know what that might be. Amazon has set the ball rolling and as I cower from what surprises 2016 might throw at me next, I hope that 2017 will see more of this.

As a fan of Black Mirror and the book Home Deus I am wary as to what unforeseen consequences there might be from all this, but as a step change in retail and the melding of the on and offline worlds it has given me hope that the backward-looking post-truth, Brexit-centric, Trumpian world might still have some progress left in it after all.

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