Amazon Go, an e-commerce giant, has opened several unmanned convenience stores in San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago to showcase the future of seamless shopping experience, which relies on high-tech tracking technology, where consumers simply take their products off shelves, and Put it in your canvas bag and leave without queuing up.
Unmanned supermarkets may be the future of supermarkets, at least according to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, but we cant predict that yet. In retrospect, the development of AmazonGos shopping experience is only the latest step in the logical evolution of retail industry.
The birth of modern supermarket mode
In fact, for people living in the late nineteenth century, the layout of modern supermarkets confused them. In the earliest days of retailing, shoppers visited multiple stores, each specializing in a particular category of products, such as meat stores, bakeries, vegetable and fruit stores, fish stores, dry goods and grocery stores, and a variety of other stores. However, these shops are only suitable for the sale of products with long shelf life, milk and other perishable goods, sent directly to the customers door by the milkman.
More importantly, it was impossible to browse the goods on dairy shelves at the time, because American retailers at the end of the 19th century had no such layout at all. Instead, shoppers walk up to the stores counter, dictate their orders when the sales assistant checks different bags and barrels of goods, and the merchant sends separate packages based on the customers orders. This process is slow, and the number of customers at the same time depends entirely on the number and efficiency of the staff. In addition, these stores are labor-intensive, which means a relatively high operating cost for a day.
It was not until 1915 that people came up with the concept of centralized shopping. In 1915, the Astor Market opened on 95th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, providing a mix of meat, poultry and agricultural products. Unfortunately, this market idea is a little ahead of schedule. The market closed two years later after failing to attract customers from neighboring communities, not to mention the kilometers around customers promised by its founder, Vincent Astor.
Meanwhile, Clarence Sanders of Memphis TN began developing self-service grocery shopping and filing patents. He was the first person to suggest that shoppers collect their own products from shelves and aisles and have them queue up in front of the counter to check out. This not only greatly reduces the labor cost of retailers, but also helps to start modern product advertising technology. As a result, the worlds first self-service shop PigglyWiggly was born.
Butcher in PigglyWiggly
Perhaps because of the brand effect, Piggly Wiggly was so popular among consumers that Sanders soon began offering franchise opportunities, and today the company still has more than 350 stores in 17 states in the South and midwest.
The new checkout counter of PigglyWiggly.
Strangely, the great depression seems to have a major impact on the emergence of modern supermarkets as we know it. Although emerging supermarket chains like King Kullen and Saafeway have been criticized for their economies of scale that have surpassed traditional retail stores, this has actually led to Congressional action in the form of the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936, they are increasingly popular with consumers who care about prices.
After World War II, Americas emerging middle class began to prosper, coupled with the emergence of suburban automobile culture, supermarket brands rapidly expanded. Countless family grocers have to close, which has helped supermarkets integrate into American culture. Interestingly, supermarket chains like Safeway and Krogers are now feeling the same pressure from big stores like Wal-Mart and online retailers like Amazon, like the local grocery stores they replaced a century ago.
The evolution of tools used to track and pay for goods.
As the retail space of supermarkets has evolved over the past few decades, the tools used to track and pay for goods have evolved. When Safeway and King Kullen were in their early days, retailers began exploring an automatic way to track inventory levels in their stores. The first such system was developed by Harvard Business School student Wallace Flint in 1932.
Flint invented a system based on punched cards, which was used in the 1890 census. Customers would browse through stores, collect punched cards of what they wanted, and then check out. Cashiers would use machines to detect cards, thereby activating a complex conveyor belt system and sending out products. Storage Room. However, the system proved to be too slow and clumsy to use commercially, and labor-intensive, so it was quickly abandoned.
Before the advent of modern barcode technology, the retail industry needs to wait for more than 10 years. In 1948, Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Dressel Institute of Technology, and his friend Norman Joseph Woodland overheard the president of a local food chain asking the president about it, and began working on a machine-readable code system.
After the first few failed attempts, they focused on the modified Morse code as the basis for their system. Silver told Tony Seideman, author of The Barcode Sweeping the World, I just stretched the dots and lines down and used them to draw narrow lines and wide lines. The idea worked and was granted a patent in 1952. Woodland, who had previously worked at IBM, repeatedly tried to get the company interested in the technology, but was also rejected. He eventually sold the patent to RCA (Radio Corporation America, RadioCorporationofAmerica).
Like many other revolutionary technologies, bar code patents were shelved at the RCA for 14 years until the National Association of Chain Food (NAFC) Conference on Automated Detection Systems was held in 1966. At that meeting, RCA proposed to test bar code technology, and Krogers volunteered to test it. These tests began in 1972 and sparked an arms race to develop what became the industrys official code system.
IBM proved to have won the race because a sales representative of IBM visited the RCA booth at another trade show in 1971 and remembered the name Woodland on IBMs payroll and asked him to redevelop the technology that had been handed down 20 years ago. Woodland did it, and the result was the birth of a modern UPC system that consumers could find in almost every item in a given store.
The popularity of new payment methods brings opportunities to unmanned stores.
Over the past few decades, there have also been fundamental changes in the way we shop. Cash and cheque payments have slowly been replaced by credit and debit cards, and credit and debit cards themselves are being phased out, replaced by safer EMV cards (also known as chips and pins), not to mention the recent non-contact payments such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
But its not just about how we pay when we check out, its about who we interact with when we check out. For decades, the process has been simple: you push the cart to the cashiers desk, chat with the cashier as he scans your merchandise and packs it, and pay for it. This long-standing tradition began to change in the 1980s, thanks to David R Humble. After waiting in a supermarket queue, he invented the first Semi-attended customer-activated terminal (SACAT). The technology was introduced in the 1990s, and by 2013, more than 200,000 stores worldwide were using the card-free cash register. This figure is expected to reach 35 000 in the next 10 years.
AmazonGo just pushed the SACAT process forward. By allowing shoppers to scan their phones as they enter stores, Amazon not only reduces friction, but also coordinates with advanced visual tracking technology and helps prevent theft. Obviously, in the foreseeable future, there will still be human employees in the field, responsible for security work, and to replenish shelves.
So what we see from Amazon Go is not necessarily a revolutionary shift, but a natural extension of existing retail trends. Given Amazons plans to open 3,000 such unmanned convenience stores by 2021, whether we want a store like Amazon Go or not, it could be the future of retailing. (From: Engadget Author: Andrew Tarantola Compiler: Netease Intelligent Participation: Small) Focus on Netease Intelligent Public Number (smartman 163) to interpret the big AI events, new ideas and new applications. Source: NetEase intelligent editor: Ding Guang Sheng _NT1941