Don’t believe retailers on checkout-free tech and jobs
Before we know it, checkout-free retail will be as common as self-service checkout machines are today. The latest evidence: UK retailer Marks & Spencer has announced it’s expanding a checkout-free system in London to more stores.
It’s not quite the same level of sophistication or convenience as something like Amazon Go, but it will still speed up customers’ visits by trusting them. As Retail Gazette reports
, “customers simply open up the M&S app when in store, scan their chosen products and pay for them using Apple Pay or via their M&S.com account.”
What interested me more than this was the statement from Marks & Spencer. After cheering the increased convenience for customers, it noted: “Crucially, it also means our brilliant colleagues are freed up to offer great service in other parts of the store, helping to improve the overall experience in the lunchtime rush.”
We’re going to see statements like this every time a new check-out free system launches. And launch they will, because bricks-and-mortar retailers really don’t want to wait around and let Amazon eventually steal their lunch.
‘Don’t worry,’ the press releases will reassure us, 'jobs are safe!’ Indeed, in Amazon Go stores, you’ll find people making fresh sandwiches or roaming the aisles to help customers – there’s no sign of mass unemployment in the retail sector.
But just wait. Come the next big economic downturn, if checkout-free tech is mature enough, it’ll be the humans who will be cut first.
It’s easy to imagine small supermarkets getting by on a skeleton staff that stocks shelves and helps customers when needed, leaving everything else to automation. Sure, in some stores you’ll pay a premium for the help of a smiling human, but where efficiency and cost-cutting matter, the tech will be waiting.