Possibly because he hates Christmas, The Blogfather is in a decidedly cynical yet entertaining mood this week as he has trouble digesting the latest PR/Marketing stunt from Amazon.
Diary entry for 6th December in the year of our Amazon Overlord 2037 – It was when our Amazon delivery drone, whilst dropping off my box set of Lovejoy, inexplicably, yet not entirely unwelcomely, blew our grandmother away with a Hellfire missile, that we thought something was up...
Many a writer has used the progress of technology to help paint visions of a dystopian society as a manifestation of their fears for the future, but I'm just doing it for a dig at Amazon.
The Empire Amazon has brought out another idea (like the delivery drone) that on the face of it sounds quite cool but when thought through by a reasonable mind has more holes in it than a kayak bought from one of their dodgy third party sellers.
The first Amazon Go grocery store has opened in Seattle, where 'customers' can pick up their items and just walk out without having to queue up and pay at the checkout. Customers will have the cost of their (and about 6 other people's) purchases automatically billed to their Amazon Prime account. Sensors will track customers as they go about the store, record items they pick up and try to decipher them all from each other and bill correctly.
Amazon claims the new service is “the world’s most advanced shopping technology...with our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)”
One wonders if, given Amazon's tendency to naughtily add Amazon Prime subscriptions you don't want to your order, that this store could turn out to be some kind of candidly introspective conceptual art installation; a physical manifestation of the self-awareness of their flaws, and a late entry for The Turner Prize.
The 'Just Walk Out' technology is not entirely new of course, with half the youths of London quoted as being pioneering the concept when caught by the fuzz on the night of the London riots back in 2011.
You can watch the supporting video here, which is as contrived and nauseating as an advert for Microsoft, and crucially, when it asks itself ; so how does it work? Doesn't really answer.
Amazon, who offset providing you with free delivery by paying no meaningful tax
The store is currently only open to employees of the company, although it’s expected to embrace the public as early as 2017 (It won't. Not as a genuine retail unit in any case).
It's reasonably obvious that it is just a marketing/PR stunt, like their Amazon delivery drones, so it won't amount to much anytime soon, even though PR agency released leaked internal documents suggest that Amazon, who offset providing you with free delivery by paying no meaningful tax, plans to open at least 2000 of these stores.
Although, anyone who's been stuck at an M&S counter behind a woman who has been stood there so long that when the transaction began Ha'pennies were still legal tender, would see the attraction of such a shop.
But it actually doesn't matter whether these Amazon Go grocery stores are viable or not. They create talk, news and retweets, and keeps Amazon at front of mind on all things pertaining to internet retail. So, job done. You have to admire Amazon's ability to self publicise. So what's the lesson here? Well, it seems that sometimes promising something that you know you cannot really deliver (by occasionally masquerading as a tech pioneer in Amazon's case) can actually work for you.
The Drum has billed Amazon's store as an “offensive on bricks and mortar” and “perhaps its most disruptive shopping solution yet”, but in reality it is not likely to be a major threat to the High Street as we know it. We blogged recently on the future of the high street, in positive tones, and here notonthehighstreet did something similar; a bricks and mortar stunt to boost brand awareness.
As much as the low prices and convenience of shopping on line have created a dramatic shift in people's social and buying behaviour, a lack of marketing creativity and budget is just as much of a threat to the traditional High Street retailers.