By Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend
Amazon is doing independent retail a massive favour but you wouldn’t know because we are constantly reminded that Jeff Bezos and his robot army are coming to crush every retailer. Amazon Go might be in the UK by the end of the year they say. But that’s an opportunity, not a death-sentence for the high street.
I have written in the past about how data, sensors and smart devices are revolutionising our lives and retail. I think this is a really interesting time and space for retail, and it’s making retail more and more magical. Why wouldn’t we use our smart devices to help us shop? Seamless payments and customer loyalty in store without needing to carry a dozen loyalty cards for a start.
Amazon is very active in the retail of convenience, monitoring shopper activity and using all this data to get our toilet paper delivered, just in time. Amazon’s new chain of Amazon Go grocery stores are making it even easier for people in the States to pop in and pick up the toilet paper and a salad on the go, by using cameras and sensors to track people in-store and automatically detect when they pick up the jumbo pack of cloud soft three-ply.
And Alexa makes it trivial to make a shopping list. You can ask it for recipes and Amazon knows what you are making for dinner. So it can suggest you add more cannellini beans to the next shop.
There is no doubt Amazon is making a big impact in online and convenience retail, and this makes for good headlines about how Amazon is going to kill retail. With drones and robots and Alexa and people-less stores.
But it’s just not true.
Amazon is disrupting the parts of retail no one likes. Standing in queues in the supermarket with your jumbo pack of toilet paper and baked beans. New batteries, or cheap bits and bobs you would otherwise buy from pound shops. Appliances that are exactly the same in every store that sells them, only the price changes. You get all this on Amazon for a deal and they deliver the same day. They are making convenience shopping better, and this is the best news for independent retail.
The fact is, Amazon and others are using technology to give us hours back each week from the drudgery of supermarket shopping and the chores of retail no one likes. While they do this they are also saving us real money too. This means we have more time and more free cash to do what we want, if we choose, and to engage in what I call the cherish side of retail. This is the magical side of retail – of exploration, discovery and happenstance. Where you go shopping to discover things to fall in love with and to cherish. To admire the store displays. To switch off for a while. To find a new jacket. You don’t know what style but perhaps a red one will be nice. Spend time with your friends in a coffee shop. Get your hair done. This is how Amazon is doing independent retail a massive favour.
Some people will love baked beans and never leaving home but I love the world we live in and I love independent retail, and I can’t imagine that ever going away. The more and more that Jeff’s robots and AI can automate our lives then the more time we have to go and fall in love with unique stores selling things meant for us to fall in love with.
So thank you Amazon from me and the millions of independent retailers selling cherishable items around the world. We’ll take it from here.
(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)