The Future of In-Store Retail?
Last weekend my boyfriend and I were at the Walmart Supercentre in Tsawwassen, and we noticed that when you first walked in, they had a wall of about 50-100 of handheld scanner devices. Upon further inspection, we learned that they were apart of a program called Scan & Go. Scan & Go allows shoppers to scan their own items, and then at the end they can go through the self-serve checkout and quickly load everything into the checkout machine and pay. Here’s a photo rundown example of our experience:
The handheld devices look like smartphones with handles on them. To scan items such as bulk foods or fruits/veggies, you simply plop them on a scale, print off the tag and scan the code. After we scanned everything, we went to the self checkout and scanned a sign at the top saying “Scan & Go”. From there it’s supposed to upload everything you’ve scanned, and you can simply pay and leave. Unfortunately we got a pop-up on our device saying we were randomly selected for a quality check, and then had to wait for about three minutes as there were no workers around. Other than that, the system seemed very seamless, and very easy to use. It was also handy to have a personal price checker with you.
So this leads me to my question about the future of in-store retail. Self-serve checkouts had a bit of a rocky start, but they are a lot of people’s first choice now when checking out. Will consumers see this as another way to have total control over their shopping experience, and make it appear faster? And would this approach work for all types of retail?
Recently we’ve seen a few changes to the retail landscape. Starbucks in Seattle decided to do a test trial of a cashless store, only accepting plastic. Also in Seattle, Amazon launched an AI-powered store, which is one step further from a cashless store, allowing users to pay with their phones and not accepting traditional credit or debit cards.
Looking at the future, as more and more things become automated, how will this affect jobs? In a lot of instances, I can see this eliminating the need for sales people. Let’s take a look at the car industry. Back in the day, people used to go to dealerships and kick tires, ask a bunch of questions and try to negotiate for a full tank of gas. Tires will always need to be kicked, but for me personally, I investigate a car completely online before going out and looking at them in person. So what’s the role of a car salesperson? Getting the keys for a test drive, and then filling out paperwork after if needed? If there was a system where you had to sign in, verify who you were, leave some sort of collateral and then were able to gain access to keys for a test drive, what more would we need? Just a self-serve check out and that car is yours. This is totally hypothetical though, we’ll probably have flying cars that drive themselves by that point. Either way, no salesperson.
This industry seems to be changing pretty quickly as of late, and I’m interested to see where it is heading. These new concepts, along with the increasing minimum wage, will definitely have an affect on small business as well, reducing the amount of human interaction needed.