Amazon has established itself as a modern threat to the brick-and-mortar stores we all grew up with, attracting business with its allure of online shopping as an alternative to in-store purchases.
In December 2016, Amazon announced a shopping model called “Amazon Go” that brought the idea of “checkout free” shopping to life. This shopping style was made possible by a combination of advanced tech from the scanners in the store’s gates, similar to that of a subway station, to the scanners in overhead cameras tracking virtual baskets.
Amazon Go became available to the public in January 2018 and now runs two stores in the Seattle area. However, the year isn’t even over and the concept store has inspired several copycat business models, ranging from big-name companies like Walmart and Microsoft to a new startup called Zippin.
Zippin is a combination of “AI, machine learning, and visual cognition technology,” without using facial recognition. The San Francisco concept store works by using overhead camera tracking and smart shelf sensors that communicate with an app on your phone to ensure accurate cashier-free transactions. Zippin also uses weight sensors built into the shelves themselves as a fail-safe. All the customer needs to do is scan the store’s QR code to walk in, grab the items off their shelves, and walk out.
Although Amazon Go initiated the concept, Zippin has filed for a patent for proprietary ownership of their tech with plans to incorporate the tech into existing retailers’ sales models.
While we don’t know for sure what this new tech will do to our society and our economy, we do know that automation doesn’t mix well with job retention. Cashier’s jobs are already being threatened by self-checkout kiosks in an increasing amount of stores, usually having about 6 kiosks with only one sales associate for assistance in monitoring them. As the world moves deeper into the digital age, retail employees might need to start exploring their options in the job market.
At the moment, it almost seems like these companies are all working backward. We live in an age where online shopping has already taken the hassle out of visiting stores to shop. While the new “checkout free” technology can ease the pain of in-store purchases, the model seems to expect a shift away from online shopping when much of today’s shoppers already have given in to staying at home. However, according to ABC News, in-store shopping still makes up 85 percent of retail purchases in the U.S. Zippin just gives brick-and-mortar stores more of a fighting chance in competing with e-commerce.
by Aura Altamiranda