Amazon Go Storms the Retail Barricades

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However, it's more complicated than that. As AI automates tasks, some workdays will become more efficient and other types of work will become obsolete. Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that it is even replacing its own predecessors before they have been fully adopted. Even historically recent inventions, such as contactless payment, mobile payment services, and error-prone self-checkout machines, are rendered obsolete by Amazon Go.

In person, I found the experience of shopping at Amazon Go was enormously positive. Some people have reported that they accidentally shoplifted; Amazon says this happens very infrequently. Others have tried various methods to deliberately trick the store, with the implication being that unmanned stores are unsustainable due to errors and theft. These criticisms miss the point. Amazon dominated eCommerce and brought in $177.9 billion in sales last year. They achieved their success, in part, by reducing friction in the customer experience on the online side. They're now bringing those same principles into brick-and-mortar.

When you consider the competitive advantage of this streamlined shopping experience, and couple that with the reduced labor costs, the problem of shoplifting becomes close to irrelevant. Perhaps that is why Amazon Go's vice president Gianna Puerini wasn't worried when a reporter mistakenly wasn't charged for her yogurt. “It happens so rarely that we didn't even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened,” said Puerini.

The friction of my customer experience wasn't just reduced. It was gone. I didn't have to wait in a long line, fumble with my wallet for money, and the right loyalty card, or repeatedly scan an item into an uncooperative self-checkout machine. I simply scanned the QR code generated by the Amazon Go app on my phone and entered through the gates. 

Shelves were well-stocked with a diverse selection of high quality items and Amazon Go correctly tracked every item I put into my bag. This is in spite of the fact that I was bouncing around the store quickly, intermingling with a fairly dense crowd, and documenting the store's cameras and sensors with my own flash photography and video.

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