Customer Experience, Helium, Innovation

Amazon Go & Extreme Innovation

The future of shopping

Today, January 22nd 2018, Amazon opens its Amazon Go “store of the future” to the general public. The store has been open since December of 2016 with restricted access to employees but has since refined its technology to allow for public access.

The concept is simple – Amazon removed cash registers from the equation, along with shopping carts and baskets. Customers use an app to check into the store and then simply peruse the store, pick their products, and leave. No scanners, no cash attendant, nothing. Once you leave, your receipt is available on your phone and you can confirm your purchases if necessary. Pick up an item but then change your mind before you leave? Just put it back and you won’t be charged for it.

It’s how shopping should be, and it’s scary accurate.

Checkout lines have long been seen as a necessary evil in the retail shopping experience, and its typically been seen as normal to us. Constraints in technology to protect companies from theft, ensuring human interaction keeps the customers feeling welcomed and safe, and the simple question of “how would it actually work?” have largely been the reasons we haven’t seen checkout-free shopping take off.

In the mid-2000s, we saw cashier-less shopping experiences in grocery and drug stores where you, as the customer, checked yourself out. These were not the most elegant experiences as customers felt as though they were now being put to work – these experiences still exist in large part, and have gotten a bit better. They don’t hold a candle to Amazon’s Go concept.

The beauty of Amazon’s concept is that it’s mutually beneficial to the brand and the customer - there is little room for error to be overcharged or to shoplift. If you pick up an item and leave, you will be charged for it.

Amazon hasn’t disclosed how many of these experiences they plan on rolling out, and in large part, it seems like this store is meant to be a showcase for what’s possible vs. expected to be tomorrow’s norm. These experience are very expensive to roll out and the technology behind them has taken years to develop.

More interesting than the concept itself is the message Amazon is sending to the world - without actually saying it: “Innovate or die”.

This is an example of extreme innovation. 

Sure, many companies “innovate”, but we’re not talking about a cute “innovation labs” where most innovative ideas go to die. We’re talking about a conscious decision to act as a change-agent for an entire industry, vertical, or product offering.

We’ve seen dozens of great examples of extreme innovation, where brands or individuals go far beyond what is expected or even socially understood to show us the art of the possible.

Becoming a change-agent

Some examples: Tesla, Amazon with Amazon Go (and even the Prime concept), Apple with the original iPhone and App Store ecosystem, Uber, AirBnB, and even the banking industry with mobile check deposits.

All of these are examples of extreme innovation where we as customers, shift our entire way of doing things and settle into a “new normal”. Innovation doesn’t mean technology. Innovation is a simply a new and improved method, idea, or product.

The best innovations begin with the simple question of “what if..” and they end in defining our new norms as consumers.

What are your thoughts on Amazon and their new Go store?

To keep in touch, follow me on Twitter @hasskhalife

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Helium is a digital strategy and execution company focused on working with brands to create elevated experiences.