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The ultimate in convenience stores

I am still bruised and suffering from FOMO. Earlier in the year when we in NZ were either bunkering down through tropical storms of trying to seek shelter from the blistering heat, I had received a lovely invitation to join Microsoft heading to The Big Show (NRF in New York) and then onto the Microsoft Envisioning Centre in Seattle and check out the launch of Amazon Go. Even more FOMO worthy was that the guys spent time with Scott Galloway who I have an intellectual crush on (he is so clever and irreverent - love his work).

While trying to inject some positivity as I watched them all click away selfies at this exciting retail extravaganza, I sat with my G&T and talked to my husband (who knows nothing about retail) and tried to explain what Amazon Go is. My other half is in tech/IT so he asked lots of questions on operational capability, then he exclaimed, "How cool. We'' never get anything like that here in NZ and wouldn't it be great?"

Amazon Go, Seattle

I took it for granted that EVERYONE knew what Amazon Go is and what all the fuss is about. But for those of you who aren't 100% on the finer detail... here we go.

Imagine a super-convenient shopping experience where you simple enter a store experience and then walk out with whatever you want without doing a single thing. Effectively a 7-Eleven on steroids with much, much better product and with no checkout lines and no checkout personnel.

The concept essentially relies on a shopper's phone identifying them as they enter the store. As they wander the store selecting products, they simply walk out the door and all their groceries are charged to their Amazon account.

Entering the store shoppers know immediately this is no drab corner store. Ready-to-eat meals for everyday part-fills the shelves including salads, sandwiches and drinks. There is a carefully crafted selection of beer and wine, meat, produce and meal-kits. The store stocks expected convenience store products; chips, biscuits, nuts, however all with the Whole Foods 365 Everyday value brand (remember that acquisition!). In the galley on the perimeter of the store you can see human involvement in the preparation and cooking of the ready meals. The cues to freshness, care and human attention to detail is clever.

This concept has been tested in Seattle for well over a year now with Amazon employees and missed several expected launch dates. January 2018 has seen it launched to the public. When we last visited the concept (March 2017) for the major struggles centred around too many people in the store, moving too fast for the cameras to register the sale. And there are cameras everywhere.

Using cameras in retail is nothing new. Retailers have used them for measuring traffic and shelf level engagement for some time. Beacons and loT sensors have improved the learning for retailers including dwell time, purchase decision making at various touchpoint on the path to purchase and day-part analysis. But Amazon says it uses 'computer vision, deep learning algorithms, sensor fusion, much like you'd find in self-driving cars'. Quite a shift beyond the tracking we have seen to date. Add the purchase information that Amazon has on the rest of wallet and you have a bagful of purchase behaviour as well as attitudinal understanding.

There is a bigger game plan here clearly for Amazon. I love their thinking but let's be fair, I am a bit loose and easy when it comes to retail innovation. While many customers will adopt this what are the implications from an ethics perspective when everything you are doing instore is being watched... monitored... recorded... linked to your records... forever. Who will this technology be sold to or how else will it be utilised? My biggest worry would be how much I might overspend or who is laughing at me when the eye in the sky sees me pick my undies out of my bottom!

Truly a store of the future.

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