I have been showing clips about it and talking to audiences about it for the last year, and now it’s finally here – Amazon Go.
After extensive beta testing the first Amazon Go store has opened and, in my humble opinion, the world has changed forever.
As I’ve been foreshadowing this day, I’ve told audiences that there would come a time when my children would tell my future grandchildren:
“Kids you won’t believe this, but before you were born I had to stand in line to buy things…Shocking I know… but those were hard times.”
Amazon Go not only represents a sea change in the check-out experience for convenience stores, retail, and any place you are currently cueing up to pay for goods or services, it also marks a shift in how humans and technology will have to mesh in the future. Further, Amazon Go is a case study in the patience it takes to test revolutionary experience delivery platforms.
Let’s first focus on what Amazon Go has to teach us about the people/technology interface.
The Technology/Human Interface in Experience Delivery
If for some reason you missed the news this week about Amazon Go and are wondering what it is, – put simply it is a store without cash registers featuring “grab and go” technology. You open your Amazon Go app and go in to grab what you want. Through the wonder of technology (not unlike advancements used in driverless cars) a virtual cart is created. You then walk out of the store without checking out, and your purchases are charged to your Amazon account, accompanied by a receipt sent back to your app.
Beyond asking, “how do they do that?” a typical follow-up question might be “what will happen to the cashiers – particularly if this technology starts gaining traction?”
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I am glad you asked…. since that is one of the major points of this blog.
From my viewpoint, the answer is that the cashiers will need to adjust in ways that add value beyond what technology can presently do. For example, many people are working on the floor of Amazon Go and out of sight of customers. Some are preparing the food that appears in the store; some are making sure the technology is working correctly, and others are greeting, guiding, answering questions, warmly thanking shoppers, and inviting people back for another visit.
Therein is the future! Technology will be expediting repetitive and manual tasks with a sophistication that is bewildering, and people will be delivering unique human value beyond anything technology is yet to replicate.
Ultimately, each of us will have to answer career questions like:
- What can I do that algorithms, machine learning, and robots can’t?
- How long will I have before tech displaces my current unique human value? Or,
- Where should I be positioning my value for the future?
Rapidly Test and Re-test Value Creation Platforms
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been talking about Amazon Go for a long time. In fact engineers at Amazon have been working on the new store concept for well over four years ago. For at least the last year, the concept has been in beta – meaning that select individuals have been allowed to shop in the beta store. The Amazon Go beta shopping experience was tracked not only for the functionality of the technology but also for the perceptions of the shoppers. Large scale and small scale tweaks were made based on real-time data (rapid prototyping) from those beta shopping excursions.
These types of disciplined and scientific customer experience (CX) elevation projects are continually happening in both the online and off-line world. For example, among a myriad of CX projects currently going on at Starbucks, designers are carefully assessing the future of cashless transactions. Specifically, Starbucks is exploring a single cashless store in its vast network. That store test is being conducted “just to see” how accepting only credit cards, and digital payments will affect customer behavior and the overall Starbucks Experience.
Back to You
For me, the way I’m trying to stay ahead of technology is by helping others design and test the best human and technology solutions to drive customer need fulfillment, ease, and delight.
Irrespective of your specific path, I know with certainty we all will need to find our “value delivery” place alongside technology and also patiently test delivery solutions that we hope will improve the lives of those we serve.
Thanks, Amazon Go and Starbucks for being this week’s real-life learning labs!