February 14, 2018
Amazon recently launched a new and unique type of store, after beta testing it for the better part of a year. The store, dubbed Amazon Go, promises consumers no checkout lines: Everything you grab from the shelves is tracked and charged to your Amazon account. With the help of the enigmatic Just Walk Out technology, consumers simply scan an app on their smartphone upon entering, grab their grub, and get going.
My colleague Brendan Witcher flew out to Seattle to see it for himself and has documented the paradigm shift that this store could cause. “This is the definition of disruption. This is Netflix replacing Blockbuster, this is Uber replacing taxis,” Brendan said.
This “no checkout lines” store created quite the queue to get into the store, showing that consumers are eager to both see this innovation with their own eyes and shop at a store like this. When we asked Forrester’s ConsumerVoices qualitative online community about this concept, we found enthusiasm about this advanced technology even among consumers you wouldn’t immediately imagine would want to shop there:
“I love it. I hate taking all the time to pick out items and then have to put them all down again to be scanned and bagged by a cashier. I am all for this store.” (US female, age 65 to 69)
While Amazon Go is a head-turning concept, Amazon itself admits that it is far from making this store the model for the future of retail shopping. “This [way of shopping] works in a special type of format and a special store,” said VP of Amazon Go Gianna Puerini.
Another aspect of this store that causes concern among consumers is its exclusivity — and that concern is less about it being exclusive and more about who it would exclude. Some consumers argued that this store would not be successful in low-income neighborhoods and questioned whether Amazon Go would ever recognize different types of payments, such as social welfare or EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards:
“Why doesn’t Amazon’s branded store accept social welfare? This says that convenience is only for the rich. It’s also concerning how this drive towards automation leaves humans behind as their jobs are taken by computers. How will these people be employed in this new economy when there simply aren’t jobs left for them?” (US female, age 30 to 34)
With each step toward retail innovations come consumer concerns that brands must address in order to earn and maintain consumers’ trust. Focusing on the customer and integrating their feedback during design processes can help brands stay ahead of the curve and react more quickly to changing attitudes and shopping patterns. In his report Process Makes Perfect: Exceed Customer Expectations with Omnichannel Excellence, Brendan Witcher reveals that “as retailers implement omnichannel capabilities, customer expectations force them to invest time, energy, and resources…to execute flawlessly on these operations.”