What Does Amazon Go Mean for the Future of Retail?



A little over a year ago, I sat in a large auditorium at the Adobe Summit conference. In addition to their well-known photo-editing software and creative suite of products, Adobe also sells a high-end marketing platform for enterprise businesses that aims to help them track their customers from their first interaction through to a sale. On the stage, Adobe was demonstrating a “Sneak Peek” at what their technology could do, using outdoor products retailer REI as an example. 

Someone playing the role of a customer walked into a set designed to look like the interior of an REI store, picked up a special REI bag and then proceeded to place a few items inside before leaving the store. 

The bag, an Adobe employee explained, automatically scanned the items placed inside, synced with the shopper’s phone and checked them out using an REI app. All without a single employee interaction or stop at a register.

A few months later, I ran across a news story about Amazon Go. That’s the brick-and-mortar store Amazon planned to launch, where shoppers could scan in with their phones, pick out the products they wanted to buy and then leave—again, no check out required. 

Pretty cool, huh?

This is the future of the self-checkout station; the next evolution of how technology will shape retail and the buying experience. But what does it mean for independent pet specialty retailers who aren’t operating on an Amazonian budget?

The theme of that Adobe Summit I attended was building an experience business. This, then, is how technology companies think about experience. 

But good independent retailers think about experience too; they just think about it a little differently. Rather than trying to remove human interaction, they believe in a high level of service, where employees are encouraged to have conversations with shoppers, answer questions and be available to tell a product’s story upon request. 

Does that mean pet retailers can afford to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the latest innovations in the industry? Of course not. 

Smart retailers will keep their eye on the advancements and adoption rates of new tech. As it becomes available at lower price points, they may even consider adopting some of new options that come on the market. However, they’ll also remember that the experience they can offer shoppers is quite different than that of the retail giants, and be sure to find the right balance between keeping up with the times and continuing to offer an experience that is—at its core—about human interaction. 


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