I am not a retail expert, but I can see the appeal of walking into a shop, picking up some products and walking out, without the need to stand in a queue. The success of the Amazon Go test stores in Seattle is a testament to our desire for simplifying our modern lives.
But then, it makes me think…
If a simple life is a life in our own little bubble, whizzing from task to task without any time to contemplate those around us, what damage might this self-absorption cause? I personally don’t mind waiting for a few minutes in the checkout line, watching a child help their parent load the conveyor belt, smiling ruefully at the teen buried in their mobile and exchanging a grateful glance with the till assistant as they speed me through.
There are so many 'human' moments that technology has the potential to delete from our lives, but actually, if we are conscious of the opportunities, tech actually has the potential to enhance the human experience.
Let’s take the retail example.
Yes, the technology could potentially take away the bottleneck of the checkout experience, but I believe that savvy retailers will realize that people go to the shops for those little micro-interactions as well as for the products. Otherwise why not just do it online? With loneliness on the rise in our society, having a quick chat with the person on the checkout often gives us an imperceptible lift, and provides the interaction some shoppers crave.
It seems that the Amazon Go tech requires precision placement of products on the shelf, so there will definitely need to be a human element if making sure that everything is where it should be, or at least until robots fully take over…What if, at the same time, these shop staff in the store were tasked with talking to those people who wanted a chat. Maybe they could share a recipe, point to the latest products or promotions? They shouldn’t be there to sell, they should be there to talk…and provide the much-needed human element.
If retailers take this decision to give these people a dual purpose, they could transform the retail experience. Checkout operators could never chat properly as speed was of the essence, but if all the products in their aisle are in perfect order, then why wouldn’t a 'customer advisor' take the time to be there for the customers.
I’m not sure that things will go this way, but they could.
In all sorts of industries, as companies are harnessing the power of technology, and automation these conversations are starting. Technology has the power to improve human interactions – this won’t always be the core reason for the tech, but it could often be a side-effect if companies deem it important enough.
It will be interesting to see how Amazon views this opportunity.
This tech has the potential to send retail customer service through the roof, despite the initial need to queue to get in through the door…