The Future of Shopping: No line ups

For years, Amazon has been perfecting the “Just Walk Out” technology. I read about it a few years ago when it was still being developed. Essentially, it offers customers a way to shop and pay for items without human interaction. Upon entering the store, customers have different options how to track their purchases. They can either swipe a credit/debit card, do a palm scan and link it to their Amazon account, or scan a QR code in the Amazon app. Either way, customers are billed automatically for whatever leaves the store with them.

All over the store, hundreds of cameras and scanners track every movement. They seamlessly add items to the customer’s virtual cart. They can also remove items from the virtual cart if a customer changes their mind and puts the item back. Either way, the cameras and scanners are watching, tracking, and recording everything. The customer finishes shopping and walks out of the store. No line ups, no cashier. The charges appear on the credit card or Amazon account. Sometimes there is a time lag to receive the charges. I wouldn’t like this as I check my receipts right away for accuracy.

It’s interesting to read about a new technology designed to minimize or eliminate interactions. This coming at a time when people are desperate for human interaction, after a long two years of lockdowns and isolation. I’m sure some people appreciate a quick chat with the cashier, even through plexiglass and masks.

However, a lot of the appeal is eliminating line ups and long waits to pay. This is definitely a pain point. I can see the benefit for this in a lot of scenarios. Places with high volume where people are on the go, such as airports or transit stations.

Another possible advantage is the opportunity for cashiers to focus on other things like assisting customers or stocking shelves, etc. Whenever I enter an actual store, I feel like it’s almost impossible to find anyone who can help. So maybe having more customer service reps and less cashiers is a smart move. Although there’s always the chance a store may hire less staff with automation available.

I’m sure I would try this out, especially if I needed to grab something fast while on the go. Even though, all the tracking and monitoring makes me a bit uneasy. I suppose it’s the direction we’re moving in.

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