Shoppers will soon be leaving stores without paying. But they won’t be stealing.
The Atlantic’s John Tierney wrote last week that the future of retail is investing in a checkout system, where users can pay for things online, come into the store and leave with their purchase.
“People have said when checkout is working really well, it will feel like stealing,” said Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, to the Atlantic. “You grab a pair of shoes and you just walk out.”
This trend isn’t limited to just retail stores, either. Tierney wrote that retail stores are using iPads and tablets instead of checkbooks, which allows users to pay their bill and tip without leaving anything concrete on the table.
“In the last century, the big change in retail checkout came by having the customer do more of the work,” Tierney wrote. “More recently, efficiencies have built on that model of having the customer do more of the work, now augmented by technology.”
Among the retail stores beginning this trend is Sears, which in February announced it would start a process where customers could shop online and pickup their product at the stores, wrote Michael DeGroote for Deseret News National. Wal-Mart may also make the move, DeGroote reported.
“Like Sears, Wal-Mart will have designated parking places where employees will bring the groceries out to the cars,” DeGroote wrote. “But Wal-Mart hopes those customers won't just pick up the groceries, but park and then go in the store and add to their purchases.”
So what will this do to employees in the United States? Business Insider reported early this year that retail salespersons are likely to be replaced with robots, or just general forms of technology.
All of this is to say that retail is changing, and it’ll have an impact on both employees and shoppers. And it’s going to keep changing, The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported.
“The retail landscape is expected to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 50 years due largely to the explosion of technology,” said Michelle Tinsley, director of transactional retail at Intel Corporation, to The Journal Sentinel. “Several new innovative technologies have recently emerged that are helping retailers make better use of big data while providing more engaging and personalized experiences for consumers who make purchases at home or in-store.”
But as long as retailers remain friendly and act like “butlers” — trying to help out the customers and not grab data from them, as David Dorf, senior director of technology strategy at Oracle Retail, put it — things will be just fine in the shopping world.
“If retailers can focus on this butler mentality,” Dorf predicted to The Atlantic, “the Internet of Things has a lot of potential to make the customer experience more rich and engaging, and loyalty will ensue.”