Look familiar? Look painful? It is all too familiar and we all know the feeling. Standing in line waiting to check out at a grocery store or other major retailer during a busy time is, to put it politely, just brutal. Is there any bigger waste of time? It’s such a pervasive problem that articles have been written guiding consumers on combating these line-up headaches; articles about how to avoid them (Daily Mail, UK); what to do if you get stuck with an “unfriendly” in one (Huffpost), how to use math to get through the process faster (CBC). You name it, long checkout queues in grocery stores, or any store for that matter, have been the bane of our retail existence, period.
Finally one company, Amazon, who prides itself on helping “us make better purchase decisions,” per Jeff Bezos, and also makes shopping simple, fast and convenient over the internet, has made its full entry into the “brick and mortar” retail world. And yet again, he put the “consumer experience” first.
Sure, Amazon will financially benefit by breaking into a market who has stubbornly resisted the eCommerce channel and stuck with “in person” purchasing; but hey, they figured out how to do it with the customer experience top of mind, making my life and your life easier. And for this, we should applaud them! Grocery stores with no check-out lines! Hallelujah!
And they aren’t the only company worrying about the customer experience these days, look at what the data is telling us about the pecking order of “Customer Experience” in the grand scheme of Executive priorities:
These are some serious numbers with what will be followed by some serious investments. And judging by these numbers, we should be “put to the front of the line” in many types of experiences – retail, sports, healthcare, etc.
While the fine, technical details have not been released around the “Amazon-Go” stores, our software, electronics, and mechanical engineers at Radius Innovation & Development don’t believe this was a huge technology challenge for them given these will be brand new retail footprints with no “infrastructure baggage” to worry about, in the store or the back-office. Retrofitting existing retailers without incurring a lot of additional cost/overhead would be the greater challenge, but absolutely do-able, given the expertise and technology we have at our disposal. In fact, we recently helped one customer who wanted to measure water flow of their shower heads in hotel rooms while avoiding the need to tear down walls to get to the plumbing. This was achieved by designing a very elegant technology solution which collected the data from the nose of the shower head and then passed the information to the salesforce.com IoT Cloud. Everything is do-able when you get creative, passionate people together in a room with technology!
But back to Amazon, we’re probably talking RFID, sensors, near-field communication, shopping cart and store beacons, some good encryption, network and cloud security, the Amazon Web Services Platform, and of course AI and some machine learning to leverage the data and enrich the consumer experience even more over time. With, of course, a demand shaping capability for the marketers and inventory management people that will push offers and inventory at the right time to the right consumers in the right locations. Magic? No, just a really good use of technology and a sound understanding of what makes up a great shopping experience.
I love the fact that technology is shaping much better customer experiences and with that we, the consumers, can determine how we shop, live, learn, heal, work, etc. The 90’s wasn’t the “me” decade, this is the “me” decade and I’m really jazzed about companies, like Amazon, who are making it so easy for “me” to juggle this crazy, exciting, busy, life of mine!
In my next blog, I will go deeper into securing and protecting an environment like this to avoid the point of sale fiasco, like the Target one. Stay tuned! And, in the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Radius’ work in Smart Packaging and Smart Retailing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Stephen Goodman to discuss your vision and how we can help you make it real or Innovation REALIZED… as we like to say.