The End of Days!

Welcome, Robot Overlords!

Amazon is Revolutionizing Retail (Again!)

Where Have All the Jobs Gone?

…. And other breathless headlines have the Interwebs all in a lather. Fact is, Amazon is testing a new concept in bricks-and-mortar retail called AmazonGo, which you can see in (scripted) action below:

This is truly innovative stuff. No lines, no checkout, no hassle—and given Amazon’s history of doing Very Big Things, it’s not an illogical leap to assume that this may be coming to a neighborhood near you. Like one-hour delivery, though, this may not actually be an option for every single neighborhood, in every metro area.

When you get down to it, especially when you get into physical retail locations, there’s one thing that’s important to note: Amazon is a lot like every other retailer—they have to operate sites that have the traffic to generate a profit.

Whaaaaaat?!? Amazon is like other businesses? Yep, that’s right—this may not be the death knell for all cashiering jobs everywhere, or for human interaction while shopping, or the imminent arrival of the aforementioned robot overlords. Small shops with a limited selection are much more common in large, dense, urban areas where lots of people may use public transport and go to the store more often.

Also: did you see any carts in that video? I sure didn’t. This isn’t a replacement for the weekly family-of-four shopping trip. (Depending on your menu, this might not be a replacement for a dinner-for-four shopping trip!) What Amazon is testing right now is a very specific type of store, with a specific use in mind.

Of course, it’s fair to say that this technology will probably be refined to be useful in other store formats, with different value propositions. As food margins for retailers shrink, they are naturally looking for solutions that will save money on overhead costs. Kroger has saved gobs of money by upgrading their refrigerated cases to ones that can self-monitor and also dim the lights when no one is actively shopping from them. Nearly every big-box store you go into (even ones with really unwieldy product, like Home Depot and Lowe’s) have a self-checkout station.

Automation is coming to just about every area of our lives—the question is, what will it look like, and when?

Alex is a retail specialist working out of the Colliers office in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a polymath, retired rollergirl and lover of interior design.