How should retailers respond to Amazon Go? 7 experts weigh in
Retailers need to invest in people and technology -- but also use data more effectively to improve the in-store experience.
Last month, Amazon’s fully automated grocery and convenience store, Amazon Go, opened in Seattle to widespread coverage — and long lines of local shoppers eager to try the line-free checkout experience. Is this traditional retail’s “Uber moment?”
In other words, will Amazon Go directly change or disrupt traditional retail stores or is this merely the latest development in a long-term evolution of retail shopping? I asked a range of companies and retail experts to weigh in.
The question I asked was, “How can or should traditional retailers respond to Amazon Go?”
Some of these experts felt that Amazon Go would be disruptive, while others counseled retailers to focus on what they do best, only do it better with data and technology. The themes that emerged from the comments below are:
- Shoppers still like to interact with human associates in stores, but store employees need to be used more effectively and better trained.
- Retailers need to do a better job of leveraging their own data for insights and more interesting and personalized customer experiences.
- Retailers need to use technology more effectively across channels and to improve the in-store experience.
- Get rid of checkout lines at all cost.
Jon Croy, co-founder and CMO of PointInside (in-store mapping and digital solutions)
The novelty of Amazon Go has caused a stir in the global retail conversation. Some see it as another sign of the impending demise of careers in retail. With Amazon Go, the pendulum has swung far to the side of self-service. It will settle somewhere in the middle where programs like this co-exist within traditional retail. Labor isn’t going away, and wise retailers will continue to invest in their people and the technology to aid associates.
Brent Franson, CEO of Euclid (retail analytics)
Let’s be clear: Amazon Go may offer an interesting retail model, but it’s a niche one. The quick get in/get out, minimal human setup lends itself well to a 7-11 but not a Macy’s. Convenience stores are all about very predictable inventory, regular turnover and all the incentives to move people in and out swiftly. An Amazon Go-like setup would really shine here.
But the rest of retail shouldn’t make a huge pivot in the same direction. Humans are social creatures, and we like social interaction, particularly in places like Nordstrom, Target and Best Buy. Any place where you might need to ask if something’s flattering, where something is, or “why this TV versus that one” needs human staffing. And it’s valued: 67 percent of consumers shop in a store because they like to see, hold and try on products before buying. That’s why smart retailers are investing in people; they understand that in a post-mobile, post-Amazon world, it’s the wise play. Apple, Best Buy, and even Dollar General are great examples of retailers focusing on making that human element really stand out as a positive and central part of the in-store experience.
That said, all retailers should be united in eliminating lines and waiting for people. No one, repeat, no one likes standing in line. And Amazon’s excellence with data is always something to emulate. In fact, in an era where Amazon is the seemingly unassailable powerhouse it is, it wouldn’t hurt for retailers to think about how they too can leverage data to better personalize their outreach based on customer needs and intent. Data cooperatives, where smaller retailers pool and share their data, are one such option that’s starting to pick up real steam.