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GUEST COMMENT Will Amazon Go save the High Street?

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Queues for a queue-less store spell success for retail technology sector, says Paul Barnes, Territory Director, App Annie, who believes that the public launch of the Amazon Go Store in Seattle markets a revolution in retail

Yesterday’s launch of Amazon Go has since sparked a lot of discussion about consumer shopping habits – is this just another way to avoid human interaction? How does the technology work? Naturally, with something to alien to traditional shopping habits, there’s mixed reaction.

For technological innovation to work, for it to become integrated into how we live our lives, how we perform a certain task, it needs to fulfil at least 2 out of these three key requirements; it needs to be faster, easier and cheaper. While many have commented online with apparent confusion as to why Amazon Go has even been launched, in fact it’s the easiest question to answer.

In January 2018, we know that time spent in-app drives dollars. For example, in the US, Target integrated Cartwheel into its Target app in Q3 2017. We’ve seen total time spent in the Target app on Android phone increase as users have begun migrating to one singular app.

In the UK alone, 2017 saw an an 80% increase in total sessions in retail apps – according to the Retrospective 2017 Report by App Annie. While shoppers reportedly shunned the high street over the festive period, according to a report by Visa, overall spending still reportedly increased YoY – which makes sense when you consider that people can shop easier, quicker and cheaper on the mobiles. In fact, November 2017 was the biggest month ever for mobile shopping according the same report.

Could checkout-less stores save our high streets? Lack of footfall on the high street is not just an issue for local areas, it’s a economic issue; when retailers start to suffer, economists start musing and the hypotheses are usually concerning.

However, most retailers, economists and consumer affairs experts have known for years now that we need to find a better way to make omni-channel retail experience more than just a buzzword. While there are retailers who have wholeheartedly embraced the world of mobile web and attempted to link this with their in-store experience, when we spend 7x more time in native apps than in mobile browsers we need to find a way to make the best use of this handheld computer we ironically still call a ‘phone’.

Our smartphones aren’t just another touch point for retailers, there an opportunity to really engage. They don’t make store assistants redundant, they make them more accessible than ever before, at the right time at the right place! A great example of this is AI being integrated into retail apps to sense – through the user’s real-time browsing habits – when they may need to speak to an assistant – whether that’s in-store or out-of-home.

Amazon Go may at first feel strange, because it is. We’re used to the rigmarole of queuing and paying – whether that’s at an express checkout or with a cashier. Naturally there will be some kinks to work out on the way, just as there was (and sometimes still is) with express checkouts.

However, Amazon Go’s launch was never going to revolutionise the retail world overnight, it was a litmus test – both for the technology and for the public reaction. While the irony of queues to enter a store for which the very premise is you don’t need to queue is not lost on the media, this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. The last time people queued for new technology was the launch of the latest iPhone.

For Amazon to drum up a similar level of excitement at one store in Seattle for a new grocery store speaks volumes about the pace at which retail technology – and people’s shopping habits – are being revolutionised through mobile.

• IMAGE Amazon Go Video posted by Amazon

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