Imagine going into a store, taking the products you want and walking out without lining up at checkout — or fumbling for your wallet. This isn’t an act of shoplifting but a futuristic shopping experience that results in a seamless payment and a speedy receipt.
The technology is available today — and it’s being deployed now.
The first Amazon Go, a convenience store operated by retail giant Amazon, opened in Seattle on December 5, 2016. Currently in beta testing for employees only, the store will open to the public in early 2017, promising a cashier-less, checkout-free shopping experience using Amazon’s patented Just Walk Out Technology.
As with a self-driving car, the technology involved combines computer vision, embedded sensors, advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Together, the system tracks items purchased and other data, noting products picked up and then returned to the shelf. The system is sensitive enough to differentiate among customers reaching for the same item, based on skin tone. Your only role? To enable the app upon entry.
For retailers, the potential unlocked by Amazon Go’s technology is massive.
Empowering consumers, informing businesses
The relevant technologies enable retailers to gather information about customer shopping habits including contextual cues. For example, knowing what gets picked up and placed back down provides data about a person’s wants, needs and decision making.
Businesses can transform this data into rapid and actionable insights about each person, enabling the delivery of a personalized and contextualized shopping experience. The result is a more efficient, customized shopping experience — and greater spend for retailers.
Autonomous shopping and beyond
Amazon Go may be at the cutting-edge of tech-heightened shopping now, but removing the need for checkout is just the beginning. Eventually, it may be possible to eliminate the act of shopping altogether.
By using data collected on a customer’s preferences, moods, routines and other shopping habits, retailers will be able to send out groceries using autonomous vehicles. Customers can get their refrigerators, pantries, closets and sock drawers restocked periodically — and without any effort.
The interface has the potential to revolutionize non-retail industries as well. Think about a logistics company. In October 2016, a self-driving truck created by Uber-owned startup Otto made its first commercial shipment, hauling almost 52,000 cans of Budweiser across a Colorado highway. Implementing this technology on a wider scale can improve road safety, limit congestion and even conserve fuel consumption.
Elements of these technologies actually have existed for years. But newfound systems integration and artificial intelligence are now bringing them together — and making science fiction possible and credible.
Amazon Go’s implementation of this intelligent, synchronistic system marks a turning point in tech/user relations. Conversation user interfaces enable users to “converse” directly with technology through their actions, while deep-learning engines allow software to get to know users like friends. The need to click or swipe is being phased out. As a result, consumers can interact with technology in startling new ways — providing powerful and intuitive new tools that support business, boost revenue and continue to make all of our lives seamless and convenient.
Kathleen Ulrich is head of marketing at Brillio, a global technology services firm focused on digital and data transformation. She has 20+ years’ experience in building strong, global brands. She has led global marketing strategy and consumer engagement while multiplying revenue in retail, transportation and packaged consumer goods businesses. Prior to joining Brillio, Kathleen worked with Wipro Technologies as head of marketing for its retail and consumer goods strategic business unit.