When you enter Amazon Go in Seattle you may be surprised by the amount of helpers in orange shirts. You are greeted by them at the entry kiosk to get assistance on how to get in and out – something that actually helps this transformative concept of a retail store to be understood by customers.
More helpers are inside handing out complimentary shopping bags and answering questions. What Amazon did was replace cashiers and use technology for those repetitive, monotonous tasks. But instead of not using employees at all they use them for something they can do better than any technology: Helping customers and more dynamic tasks.
Amazon’s “Day One” mantra always starts with the customer, so they are not worried about the number of employees right now. They are focused on changing customer expectations about ever having to wait in line for a cashier. They lead disruption and make the rest scramble to catch up.
Using employees more efficient is something we at snabble hear from every retailer. It’s not about replacing them but finding better roles. One retailer even told us that it’s difficult to actually find cashiers because that’s a career path no one wants to take anymore.
Imagine your store full of customers getting the help they need and how that can benefit your revenue, but getting rid of the most frustrating part of shopping, the checkout queue. What store wouldn’t benefit from a few more people on the floor?
So, is Amazon Go just a testing lab or a marketing vehicle?
Considering gross margins in food retail and the sheer amount of technology under the ceiling and behind walls one may wonder how Amazon Go will ever be profitable. But maybe Amazon doesn’t care about that right now, it has plenty of money to burn and is not afraid to fail. But you also have to consider that the significant research and development of the technology and it’s tooling is now done – now they just need to get rid of the most significant cost in retail, which is labor.
Customers will decide if the concept of employee-less shops will have a future. If users adapt to this idea, the ROI for Amazon will be huge and existing retailers may stumble, even if taking over retail will take longer than taking over online shopping.
We at snabble believe that employees are an important part of the shopping experience and will actually be an advantage for your shops and brand.