Ready or not – welcome to the future of shopping

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

You may have tried one of the self-checkout stands at your local grocery store.

A few grocery stores have tried these. Some were effective and well-used, others had problems or were unpopular with shoppers.

Some potential users didn’t like them on philosophical grounds – they’d rather have a human being adding up the cost of their groceries. Others were spooked by the sheer nuisance of figuring out how to run every feature of the transaction.

Others of course, were figuring out how to get through the system without paying the full price. Others, according to some studies, are normally honest, but find it too easy to take something with out paying for it (otherwise known as stealing) because it is so easy and they weren’t stealing the item from an actual person  (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/08/02/self-service-checkouts-turn-honest-shoppers-into-thieves-warn-cr/).

Supposedly one out of three transactions involves theft of some kind.

A whole industry is wrapped around prevention of theft via self-checkout counters (https://www.retailcustomerexperience.com/articles/3-ways-to-stop-theft-at-the-self-checkout/).

Who needs humans anyway?

But as you might expect, just when we think we have become accustomed to a new technology a new one comes along.

Why have a check-out counter without a cashier when you can have an entire store without any human staff at all?

Yes it is coming, and when you have investors like Microsoft and Krogers, (competing against the likes of Amazon and Walmart) you know that the shopping landscape is about to change (again).  (1*)

The premise is actually pretty simple – you take an item off the shelf and are charged for it immediately. No lines, no waiting, no searching for wallet or credit cards, and no cash needed.

As you might guess, a smart phone app shows you where your desired item is, if it is in stock, and the price. If you have an account set up, you just grab it and go.

In an era where everything from cars to refrigerators are “connected” and “smart”, why not have a business run entirely by AI, scanners and robotics? (There’s an entire frozen yogurt chain using robots: http://www.froyorobots.com/)

We seem to want our food "on the go" - why not everything else?

We seem to want our food “on the go” – why not everything else?

As has been the case many times lately, the Seattle area is the proving ground for this new move in retail.

Is this the ultimate answer – especially for those in a hurry or in need of just one thing?

As much as I love technology, and can certainly see the multiple advantages and conveniences, I’m not sure if this is a direction I want to see us move in. Ordering online has proven to be vulnerable to “porch pirates” and delivery glitches.

Will fast food places be “smart” in the future? How about buying shoes or clothing? Will the future of shopping be like living in a giant and inescapable vending machine? Maybe this is the answer – at least for some of us.   (2*)

 

(1*)   Owner of nearly 2,800 stores (including Fred Meyer’s) in 35 states under two dozen store names and annual sales of more than $115.3 billion.

(2*)   You can see more details here – http://fortune.com/2019/01/07/microsoft-kroger-partner-compete-amazon-walmart/ or  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-07/kroger-microsoft-create-futuristic-grocery-store-amazon-take-note