Retail Will Never Be The Same Again
No checkout lines, no cashiers, and no registers.
A millennial’s paradise seems to be a world where all traces of human interaction are removed. More than that, it’s a world where everything is efficient and streamlined.
The tech companies leading the automation revolution are already working to capitalise on this with innovative solutions that could completely alter how we physically shop and transact.
And what better way to simplify the retail process than to remove humans from the equation? Human interaction, after all, is messy, slow and unpredictable.
Amazon, a company already well known for being a retail disruptor, has recently unveiled a new store where you can ‘just walk out’.
Amazon Go is essentially a convenience store with a similar layout and product range to your average 7/11. But you won’t find any cash registers or self-checkout machines inside. Nor many staff at all.
Instead, the store is fitted with cameras and shelf sensors that track what items you pick up. Upon leaving the store through the electronic gates, you’re automatically charged for the items via the Amazon Go app.
While it may feel like shoplifting, the technology actually makes it near impossible to do so. And with no interaction, queues or machines to slow you down, you can be in and out in under a minute.
As you can imagine, the store has been a huge hit since it opened in Seattle on Monday. Most people have likely gone for the sheer novelty of buying an item and experiencing the thrill of walking out without directly paying someone.
But in time, this could become the norm for retail. It could change the very nature of what a ‘convenience’ store means. And it could happen just as quickly as self-checkout machines became the norm for grocery shopping.
Indeed, it’s not unlikely that artificial intelligence (AI) could soon be coming to a Coles or Kmart near you.
Most people find this kind of innovation exciting. Myself included. But Australia — and the world — is critically underprepared for the automation of our workforce.
The changing nature of work is no longer hypothetical. The 4,000 NAB employees made redundant by AI last year found that out the hard way.
And while it’s difficult to predict the future, Amazon Go is a good indicator of what’s to come. If we don’t prepare accordingly, it will be to our detriment.
Even Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai agrees that the development of artificial intelligence and automation will be more profound than ‘electricity or fire’.
There’s no question that this shift towards automation will be profound. And as these tech giants come full circle to conquer the physical realm, I’m sure it won’t be long before we can walk into a Google store and make a purchase from an artificially-intelligent being.
Developments like Amazon Go should ignite debate on whether machines could become — if they’re not already — superior to humans in the workforce. Debate that will hopefully prepare us for the new tech-encrusted reality that we will all soon be living in.
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