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Keeping the faith: Why Amazon’s bet on brick and mortar may pay dividends for the high street


Retail news of late has been awash with stories of the Amazon Go stores that are now popping up around the US and, rumour has it, travelling across the pond to London’s Oxford Circus in the not too distant future. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the ecommerce behemoth’s physical retail spaces, the idea is that the stores allow people to ‘grab and go’ – quite literally.

Armed with a code that can be presented via smartphone on arrival, customers at the stores can simply take items from the shelves, which are fitted with weight sensors and cameras to determine what a shopper has purchased, and go. Their credit card is charged for goods automatically based on the products they take. No tills. No cashiers. Not even a malfunctioning self-service checkout chanting “unexpected item in bagging area!”.

The level of tech innovation is frankly astounding. Discounting the odd still-in-existence-honesty shop, where else is the physical shopping process able to be streamlined into such efficiency? It’s a real leap for those who crave the transactional convenience that comes with online shopping but want to feel a product in their hands and see it in the flesh before committing to a purchase. The other benefits of bringing this sort of innovation to the high street are not lost on me either.

In my opinion, anything that gets people out of the house, away from the laptop and out and about to interact with their fellow humans (a crazy idea, I know) can only be a good thing for humankind. The very act of people going to the high street to shop is a good thing for communities and for people.

This brings me to the second benefit – the added attraction that Amazon Go stores will bring to the high street. We are all aware of the difficulties that the high street is facing, not least due to the existence of the convenience of online shopping itself. If Amazon Go can do its bit to get people back onto the high street, it surely provides more of a chance of people visiting other retailers whilst they are out and about. This is something that we are also conscious of at Laybuy, and we too have tried to our bit by building in-store functionality into our payment platform. Our hope is that bricks and mortar retailers having the capability to offer payment flexibility to consumers is, again, an attraction that will draw shoppers in-store.

Last, but by no means least, I seriously hope that Amazon Go stores can have even a small impact on the environmental damage that the high volume of goods delivery is doing to the planet. As I have mentioned before, Amazon’s incredible ecommerce success means that it delivers in excess of 1.5 million packages every single day – just think of the discarded packaging and emissions from delivery vehicles. If Amazon Go can encourage even a small percentage of people to go in-store to pick up products, it could make a huge difference in terms of carbon footprint.

Amazon plans to triple the number of grab and go stores in the coming years, demonstrating the demand that Jeff Bezos and co. expect for this type of retail experience. And if these stores can deliver the sorts of benefits that, in my opinion, they could be capable of, then I say good on them.

We’ve only gone and launched with Footasylum in the UK
When it comes to winning at the retail game, what’s trust got to do with it?

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Gary Rohloff