With Amazon planning to open a chain of automated stores around the United States, shoppers may soon find themselves buying groceries without having to talk to fellow human beings.
While the move offers another level of convenience to consumers, it could also cause some problems, especially to the millions of people employed as cashiers in the country who could one day lose their jobs to electronic counterparts.
Amazon Go Grocery Store
Amazon revealed on Monday, Dec. 5, that it plans to launch an automated grocery store located in Seattle, Washington in early 2017.
The new Amazon Go store will allow customers to simply walk in, pick out the food item they wish to buy and then walk out without ever having to deal with other people.
According to Amazon, the key to this new service is to download and install the store's accompanying smartphone app, also known as Amazon Go. Customers need to have this app before they can enter the automated supermarket.
Once inside the building, the store will use various sensors and computer vision combined with deep-learning technology to track shoppers. These will also allow Amazon Go to register the items that each customer buys from the store.
If customers happen to change their mind on a food item, they just have to place it back to have it removed from their current bill.
No More Checkout Lines And Cashiers
This is all part of Amazon's vision of what the future of shopping will be. Customers will no longer have to spend time in long lines just to buy food. They also don't have to interact with people if they don't want to.
The new grocery store will operate much like self-driving cars, where the human factor will be eliminated from the entire customer experience.
"This is part of its efforts to do everything possible to make the Amazon name synonymous with retail, whether it's online or offline," industry analyst James Cakmak from Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. explained.
"This is another test in figuring out what works and what doesn't in the retail environment."
However, Amazon Go also faces the same issues as other automated services such as its impact on human employment. Since transactions in the Amazon store will be handled automatically, the company won't need to hire people to serve as cashiers.
Amazon already makes use of robots to run its warehouses and could also build new robots to place items on store shelves.
If the new automated service proves to be successful, other stores could also pick up on the practice and use robots to run their businesses. This could lead to mass layoffs of human employees in the retail sector and other industries as well.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists about 3.4 million Americans as cashiers and 4.5 million others serving as retail salespeople in different stores. There are an additional 2.4 million people working in warehouses, helping to restock and move various cargos around.