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Big Revolution - Retail work in a checkout-free world

Welcome to Wednesday's Big Revolution. Today I've got a head full of thoughts about the future of ret
October 3 · Issue #220 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Wednesday’s Big Revolution. Today I’ve got a head full of thoughts about the future of retail automation…

Big things you need to know today
  • Microsoft has announced loads of new hardware, with updates to the Surface Pro, Surface Laptop, and Surface Studio. There are also new headphones, the ability to ‘cast’ Android apps to your Windows desktop, and a new US-only two-year monthly payment plan for buying Surface devices that includes Office 365, too. The Verge has a roundup.
  • Amazon has introduced a $15 minimum wage for all employees across the USA, as a response to criticism about how poorly the company treats some of its staff. There’s no word about a similar deal for its employees elsewhere in the world, where working conditions can be just as bad. Oh, and Jeff Bezos makes the annual salary of one of his minimum wage workers every 11.5 seconds.
  • Paying corporate users of Facebook’s Slack rival are among the 50m affected by the recent hack, Business Insider reports. How embarrassing. However, Facebook says there’s no evidence the hack was used to access users’ accounts on third-party services.
  • Google has launched an Android app called Voice Access, designed to help people with mobility and motor impairments control their devices, The Verge reports.
The big thought
Inside a (normal) Marks & Spencer store. Credit: Marks & Spencer
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& 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.
One big read
NYC wants to build a cyber army NYC wants to build a cyber army
Can New York City become a global leader in cybersecurity? It certainly plans to be, and here’s how.
One big tweet
Daniel Waterhouse
We just announced our new Liquidity Fund I - providing liquidity for early shareholders in growth tech companies and supporting further the development of the European tech ecosystem. I've posted a few words about it here:
8:08 AM - 3 Oct 2018
Daniel Waterhouse of venture capital firm Balderton announces a new fund that will allow founders and other early shareholders in tech companies to cash out some out their shares early. It’s great to see VCs innovate to serve an evolving market…
That’s all for today...
That’s all for today. See you in your Thursday inbox!
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