This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, with technology dramatically reshaping how the food industry goes to market. Driverless trucks, strawberry picking robots, delivery drones and robots that actually like taking inventory are just a small sampling of what is on the horizon. Quite frankly, retail is
never going to be the same.
The move to robotics and automation is being driven by a series of
factors, chief among them rising wages, including a drive to a $15 an
hour minimum wage nationwide, as well the desire to improve the
overall in-store shopping experience, efficiency and the bottom line.
The seeds of this change have taken root in Amazon Go—the internet giant’s first foray into retail brick-and-mortar grocery. Amazon Go
opened its first unit to the public this month in Seattle to great fanfare
from local and national media. By downloading an Amazon Go app,
shoppers can walk in, grab a cart and fill it with drinks, prepared meals,
sandwiches, a chef-made meal kit and a few grocery staples, and simply
walk out—without ever having to wait on a long line behind someone
with a stack of outdated coupons, waiting for a price check, the override
key or dealing with a surly cashier.
Tech-savvy Millennials see Amazon Go as nirvana; traditional retailers see the 1,800 square-foot boutique as a Little Shop of Horrors—
especially if the (denied by Amazon) rumors of 2,000 of them springing
up from coast-to-coast are true.
“I believe this format will be very successful for Amazon—it is the
right idea at the right time and in the right place,” says Gary Hawkins,
CEO and founder of CART, a retail technologies coordination firm
based in Los Angeles, and the former CEO of Green Hills Market in
Syracuse, N.Y. “Is there any shopper who enjoys standing in line to
checkout? If Amazon can do what they suggest in their announcement—
the ability to walk into the store, gaining access with the Amazon app
on your phone, and pick up products you want and just walk out the
door—it is amazing.”
“I think we’re in a really exciting time,” says Colm O’Brien, director,
solutions – global consumer industry, in the Dublin, Ireland office of
IBM, and a former supply chain director at Tesco. “Look at Amazon Go.
Retail has gone through a period of disruption, what I call transforma-
tion. Stores still matter and if we look at even the most aggressive pro-
jections, the vast majority of grocery retail sales will still be happening
HOW MUCH WILL TECHNOLOGY CHANGE
THE IN-STORE EXPERIENCE? BY RICHARD TURCSIK