First there was the shop, perhaps small and local. Then the stores grew and moved further away. There was the shopkeeper who served us, then self-service shops appeared. Then came the explosion of the web and new technologies “dematerialized” the shop with remote online shopping and home deliveries. We thought we had run out of possibilities, but now we have a new entity: a hybrid between a physical store and an online store.
It’s called Amazon Go and it immediately became known as “the cashier-free, checkout-less supermarket“. First opened in Seattle in 2018 on the ground floor of Amazon’s headquarters, it attracted attention straight away due to its unusual way of operating. Entering the turnstiles, you are identified by a special App and a QR-Code: from that point on, the customer can start shopping and is free to leave without queuing. There are no checkouts or shop assistants, but only cameras and sensors that record the products taken from the shelves, charged according to the preferred electronic payment system.
Seen this way, it seems like a real revolution; in reality it’s an evolution of the attempts made by large retailers to speed up the payment mechanism, such as self-service checkouts or the scanners that customers can use to scan the products to be paid for.
Some fear that this type of purchasing will transport us into a solitary and impersonal world, rich in products and perhaps poorer in relationships. A new form of alienation. Over the years, however, changes have taught us that innovations are added to each other, so in large cities we are also seeing a return of the local store, often in the form of small supermarkets. With shop assistants, this time.