Does Amazon Go sign the death of traditional grocery shopping?

As retail companies are trying to integrate digital technologies and innovative process into their business, former pure player Amazon strikes hard with the introduction of Amazon Go.

Amazon Go is the first check-out free shopping experience: simply enter a shop, grab your items and leave. Using a blend of technologies like sensor fusion, which captures the orientation of an item in 3D, Amazon Go allows to just grab your groceries and automatically add them to your virtual shopping cart. When you leave, your saved bank details are used to charge you – simple as that. Amazing, right?

I think this development is highly interesting – not so much for the technology is uses, but for showing that physical shopping is not dead and just needs to be improved with a blend of technology to become more convenient and relevant for busy, hyper connected consumers.

Seeing a pure player come to the physical space, however has big implications for traditional retailers, and not only pleasant ones. First, Amazon enjoys strong popularity and reputation as a top service provider. They can build on this existing image to bypass all awareness and reputation building with their physical store and steal mind shares from traditional retailers. Second, as some industry experts point out, this poses a major threat to physical business models relying on cashiers, and some fear the job loss implications of the Amazon Go format. Third, pure players like Amazon have long mastered the art of managing big consumer data: another competitive advantage compared to many physical retailers still struggling with this practice.

I think however that such models are only the next step of improved shopping experiences. Self-check out already exist everywhere, some people purchase in-store on their mobile apps, others prefer ordering from home and picking up, or being delivered with Amazon Dash. I think Amazon Go is not the death of physical stores and jobs, quite the opposite. It only creates a different kind of experience to accommodate the needs and preferences of highly hybrid, urban and busy shoppers.

The first pilot store has been launched in Seattle but is not open to the public yet – the plan is top open over 2000 shops in the introductory phase according to the Wall Street Journal. I cannot wait to see it open in Europe. Let’s hope it’s before 2030!

Supermarket fascination

I can no longer hide from it: I love supermarkets. They can be big or small (although, the bigger, the more fascinating), specialised or mainstream, busy or quiet, located in any country or continent…I love them all. I happily go around a supermarket ten times, pass the same section over and over again, and, in the end, spend 30 minutes to buy 5 items.

I think my obsession has become more prominent since I moved in the UK, where retail stores are very well implanted and have developed really strong brands. Whether they like supermarkets or not, UK citizens cannot deny that Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Morisson have become real institutions. They are  on every street corner, offer a large range of services, and have very strong own labels. A recent study on brand love and hate in the UK shows that top retailers are all highly ranked in the top 50 of most loved brands. That’s food for thought.

What I enjoy most, is going to different supermarkets around the world and discovering the products that locals go crazy for. The size of the section dedicated to certain products is certainly indicative of local food preferences. Among my favourites.

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  • Olive oil and pasta in Italy (spotted this summer at my local holiday Bennet near Venice)
  • Cheese and “Hageslag” in The Netherlands (They are chocolaty granules and a true winner from my latest trip at an Albert Heijn; so random!)
  • Soy sauce in Asia (Oh the memories of living on top of an E-Mart!)
  • Baked beans and tea in the UK (Tesco…my midnight shopping love)
  • And then I guess Belgium would be big for its chocolate and beer sections? Let’s go for this…I’m sure Delhaize would support this claim.

Of course this all sounds very simplistic and stereotypical, … and it is in a way, because not all UK citizens are heavy bean eaters or all Italians swimming in seas of olive oil at every meal –Thank God.

However, I cannot help but be amazed by the selection of products in supermarkets, the way they are promoted and displayed, and how shops are indicative of the local culture.

Hopefully this slightly deranged view from a marketing geek reconciles you a bit with the much dreaded weekly trip to the store. I would love to know what products overload stores in your country, please share and enjoy your next grocery shopping trip!