I remember years ago going to my local bowling alley. It was a great place to socialize with friends and the employees, maybe make new one, and above all — have fun. It was less about bowling and more about the ‘social’ experience.
Now, that local bowling alley, as well as many other bowling alleys are gone. Wiped out by bulldozers and construction of a big boxed store, — or a supermarket.
Let’s fast forward ten years and imagine this scenario: you walk into your supermarket and are greeted with robots, shopping alongside robots, give your payment or not to a robot and driving home in a self-driving car with a robot.
This may be something out of an Isaac Asimov novel, but in ten years this may be actually what you will see in your supermarket.
Amazon Go, is envisioning a supermarket run by robots, who do much of the work with only three humans managing it and the robots. As reported in the New York Post, they are developing a supermarket with these features.
Now if their vision takes hold, and chances are it will, don’t be surprised if you see other supermarkets follow suit and replace human employees with robot employees. They would save a ton on health insurance and other liability costs associated with having a human.
However, although a robot may be more efficient I cannot picture a supermarket where you cannot speak with employees or with fellow customers walking the aisles. Automation is fantastic, but we must keep in mind the beauty of human conversation.
I support Amazon’s vision to disrupt the way we buy groceries. It is inspiring and disrupts the ‘value chain’ of the old business model, — distribution and customer service.
There are risks like increased shoplifting, which is why AmazonGo shoppers must be Prime customers before they shop in their store assuming that if they can pay for the Prime subscription they will be less apt to shoplift.
But what about those who cannot afford the $9.99 per month, does Amazon shut the door on them?
We’ll see how things play out as AmazonGo pervades the supermarket industry. The opportunities for growth and efficiency ate endless, but the risk for human conversation might get wiped out, as what happened with the local bowling alley.