Many questions about Amazon’s new retail prototype
By Richard Pachter
Will Amazon Go open around the country? Will the technology be deployed in Amazon-owned Whole Foods locations? Will the company’s deep customer data collection engender other technologies that leverage information into new permutations of loyalty and affinity marketing? What’s the downside of Amazon Go for customers? And will it be a jobkiller?
It’s no secret that online leviathan Amazon.com has brick and mortar in its sights. Last year’s acquisition of the upscale-ish Whole Foods grocery chain was unanimously viewed as just the beginning of its incursion into actual — not virtual — retail space. Some would-be corporate matchmakers view Target or Kroger as possible targets for Amazon-ification. But let’s not overlook the potency of its own brand.
In fact, as a brand, Amazon is now the world’s most valuable. (Google is second and former leader Apple dropped down to third.) Why then, wouldn’t mighty Amazon not leverage its brand as a retail outlet? Well, it already has — but on the down-low, more or less.
For about a year, its experimental 1,800 square-foot brick-and-mortar Amazon Go location served the company’s employees in Seattle while acting as a working laboratory for its experimental retail technology. After roughly a year of employee-only access, Amazon Go opened to the public last week.
The move hasn’t been universally acclaimed. Erstwhile personal finance commentator Jean Chatzky expressed concern that the frictionless experience might be a catalyst for profligacy as consumers cast cautions to the wind and become more susceptible to avarice and impulse. Shoplifting, though so far rare, is also possible.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. Challenges invariably create opportunities. For example, with no cashiers, customer service in general and loyalty, in particular, will become more important than ever.
President of marketing agency Epsilon Wayne Townsend believes that embracing the new technology is the way to go.
“In the transforming retail environment, there is an immediate opportunity for brands to fuse data, technology and content to engage [a] loyalty program (with their best customers) with geo-location reminders to [incentivize] store visits and real-time offers via mobile push notifications when they are in store,” he said.