From: GeekWire - The end of grocery checkers? Amazon’s high-tech convenience store points to future of physical retail

Grocery cart
The checkout-less shopping experience envisioned for the Amazon Go store is part of a long-term trend in retail automation. (Bigstock Photo)

First there were supermarket shelves. Then barcode scanners, then self-checkout lines, then online shopping. Amazon’s move to take the grocery checkout counter completely out of the loop is the latest disappearing act for the brick-and-mortar retail experience.

But it’s not unexpected: Walmart and Whole Foods also have been working on ways to streamline grocery shopping, using automation and robotics. And the competition could heat up quickly.

“Retailers will be looking to understand what percentage of their current customers are utilizing Amazon, with the thinking that these will be the customers that are most at risk to the Amazon threat,” Matt Sargent, senior vice president for retail at Frank N. Magid Associates, wrote last week in a post that anticipated Amazon’s latest move.

Magid’s research suggests that Amazon shoppers are weighted in favor of the under-44 population, those with kids in the household, those who go to grocery stores more than once a week, and those who make it a point to buy locally. In short, just the kinds of customers that grocery stores want to hang onto.

“The top challenge for brick-and-mortar retailers will likely be the technology itself,” Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce, told GeekWire in an email. “The vast majority of them don’t have the know-how or the resources to create or install it themselves, so they’ll need to rely on outside firms to do all of that. That’ll add costs, although those should drop as the technology becomes more widespread.”

The Amazon Go concept takes advantage of trends that already have been changing retail – including smartphone apps that grant you access to the store, “smart carts” and smart shelves that keep track of what you buy, and real-time inventory management on the back end of the operation.

Amazon says it’s adding a few new twists, based on the same sort of artificial intelligence and machine vision that other companies are putting to use in autonomous vehicies.

Experts say advanced automation is already on track to revolutionize the transportation industry, potentially displacing millions of truckers and other drivers for hire. If anything, the stakes are greater for the retail trade sector, which employs more than three times as many Americans as the transportation and warehousing sector (15.3 million vs. 4.6 million in 2014).

“This is just the beginning,” Caporaso said. “Moore’s Law says that computing power doubles every 18 to 24 months, and if that law holds, automation will creep into more and more corners of our life, including shopping, employment and more. Governments will need to start studying the coming technological wave and take steps to ensure that their citizens’ needs will be addressed as employment opportunities fall.”

***SYNDICATED*** Check out this Syndicated article at it's original source and read more HERE: * From: GeekWire * Reposted by: Computer Magazine * --- Chris Swearingin, Editor-in-Chief

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