The retail sector, which is already under massive pressure from shrinking sales and competiton from Amazon, is now frantically trying to catch up to Amazon in automation:
To see what it’s like inside stores where sensors and artificial intelligence have replaced cashiers, shoppers have to trek to Amazon Go, the internet retailer’s experimental convenience shop in downtown Seattle.
Soon, though, more technology-driven businesses like Amazon Go may be coming to them.
A global race to automate stores is underway among several of the world’s top retailers and small tech start-ups, which are motivated to shave labor costs and minimize shoppers’ frustrations, like waiting for cashiers. They are also trying to prevent Amazon from dominating the physical retail world as it does online shopping.
Companies are testing robots that help keep shelves stocked, as well as apps that let shoppers ring up items with a smartphone. High-tech systems like the one used by Amazon Go completely automate the checkout process. China, which has its own ambitious e-commerce companies, is emerging as an especially fertile place for these retail experiments.
If they succeed, these new technologies could add further uncertainty to the retail work force, which is already in flux because of the growth of online shopping. An analysis last year by the World Economic Forum said 30 to 50 percent of the world’s retail jobs could be at risk once technologies like automated checkout were fully embraced.