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Amazon Go: What the Dawn of Cashierless Shopping Means for Tech Communicators

3 Min Read
Gareth Thomas, Managing Director, UK at PAN Communications
Gareth Thomas
Managing Director | London, UK
  • Blog
  • Technology
  • Content Marketing
  • Public Relations

Amazon Go: What the Dawn of Cashierless Shopping Means for Tech Communicators

Gareth Thomas, Managing Director, UK at PAN Communications
Gareth Thomas
Managing Director | London, UK

With the first Amazon Fresh store now open in the UK, and 30 more planned, are we witnessing the dawn of a new cashierless era of shopping in Britain? And will Amazon come to dominate this space as the tech provider of choice, or is there room for start-ups to get in on the action?

The speed and convenience that cashierless stores promise is certainly very attractive. British people may be internationally famed for our ability to wait in line respectfully, but no one really enjoys queuing in a grocery store.

This is what fueled the explosive growth of the forerunner of cashierless technology: self-checkout terminals.

From the noughties onward, consumers quickly embraced the convenience these terminals offered, and the need for social distancing across the pandemic has accelerated their use even further. They are now commonplace in most major British supermarkets and it’s estimated that there will be 1.2 million self-checkout locations/stations globally by 2025.

communication strategies for tech brands

 

“Whilst consumers get to check out faster, with fewer lines, retailers have benefitted from offering an enhanced customer experience (CX) – something that is critical to building loyalty.”

Whilst consumers get to check out faster, with fewer lines, retailers have benefitted from offering an enhanced customer experience (CX) – something that is critical to building loyalty. They also benefit from reduced costs: after the initial capital outlay of self-service PoS, retailers need fewer staff to manage the same number of checkout points.

Of course, this cost reduction has caused controversy, as people worry about automation leading to job cuts. In Britain this will remain a particularly hot topic if we move toward cashierless stores – after all, retail is a sector that employs more than any other in the UK.

However, retailers will argue that a move to automated checkouts frees up staff to spend time on the shop floor helping customers and stocking shelves. And there’s certainly a move towards brick and mortar retailers differentiating by offering human experiences within their stores, in the face of stiff online price competition.

“Another factor that could give retailers pause for thought when it comes to cashierless stores will be privacy. The use of cameras to track customer movements around stores to enable cashierless experiences is already motivating privacy campaigners to raise objections.”

Another factor that could give retailers pause for thought when it comes to cashierless stores will be privacy. The use of cameras to track customer movements around stores to enable cashierless experiences is already motivating privacy campaigners to raise objections. But history has shown that consumers’ concerns over creepy surveillance are quickly brushed aside if, ultimately, we get something faster and/or cheaper.

It is very early to tell, but it does seem that the direction of travel is headed towards cashierless stores. I’d go further and argue that the real question is not whether it happens, but how it is done.

For retailers, this is the real dilemma.

communication strategies for tech brandsFox guarding the chicken coup?

One obvious option is to use Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology – sold as a fast-to-deploy technology, from one of the world’s biggest brand names, and already in use across Amazon Go stores in North America and now its Amazon Fresh stores in the UK too.

However, many retail decision-makers will look at a cashierless tech partnership with Amazon as akin to letting the fox guard the chicken coup.

Amazon is one of the world’s biggest retailers, and the thought of giving them unfettered access to all the data about their inventory and their customers’ shopping behaviour will send a shiver down the spine of many retail bosses.

“Amazon is one of the world’s biggest retailers, and the thought of giving them unfettered access to all the data about their inventory and their customers’ shopping behaviour will send a shiver down the spine of many retail bosses.”

The other option is to implement their own version of cashierless stores, working with a less well-known tech provider that may lack the proof point of its own stores already using their tech, but with no conflict of interest.

What This Means For the Challengers

The many tech start-ups hoping to lead this space, such as Caper, Trigo and Grabango, will do well to emphasise the absence of a conflict of interest in their communications to retailers.

  • Craft Messaging & Positioning Carefully: The fact that retailers are not themselves will be key to them becoming attractive and trusted partners. Reassuring retailers that any data collected will be used only to help them improve their stores – for example, for layouts that optimise shopping experiences – will be key. This position is something that a smart thought leadership programme across earned and owned channels can drive.
  • Leverage the Voice of the Customer: Alongside this, they will also need to fast track credibility of their technology and share use cases of it in action through a strong Voice of the Customer programme. This will help reassure retailers that a challenger’s technology can be deployed quickly, cost-effectively, and with privacy-by-design at its core.
  • Lean on Data-driven Storytelling: Sharing robust data that builds the business case for their technology will also be important – for example, showing how cashierless technology not only brings efficiencies in terms of the checkout experience, but also behind the scenes in terms of inventory management.
  • Helping retailers navigate any backlash: They may also have a role to play in helping retailers navigate the potential backlash about lost jobs. That could be by collating and providing expert advice on how to effectively redeploy workers from the tills to the shop floor, or perhaps even offering upskilling programmes.

Whoever ultimately wins out, this intersection of retailtech and fintech will be fascinating to watch over the coming years. Incredible innovation across e-commerce means we’ve all come to see frictionless shopping as standard, and this is steadily making its way into our physical world retail expectations.

I for one, am willing to bet that we will all be doing a lot more cashierless shopping in future.

As technology evolves, so should the content strategy for these innovative brands. Use our eBook below as a guide.

 

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