As previously reported on this blog, retailers who develop and diversify to respond rapidly to public demand are those doing well in the current climate of recovery. We’ve been very interested to see many traditional stores developing their multichannel proposition, whilst some online stores have made their first foray into physical retail. Last week Amazon hinted at plans to take their new high street retail store format even further as they filed a patent which would allow shoppers at their new bricks-and-mortar stores to pick up the items that they want and pay for them automatically, rather than in store.
The patent alludes to in-store technology which allows shoppers to pick up the goods straightaway but delay payment, using a combination of RFID and cameras to identify which products have been chosen and by whom. So no checkout, no queues, but the convenience of instant access to your goods – a bit like click and collect, but in reverse.
Visitors to the store who choose to use this new shopping method would be charged after exiting with their chosen goods and sent digital confirmation after the event. With no need for cashiers or queues, the new store concept could save Amazon money on staffing, whilst providing extra convenience to shoppers.
According to the patent the new method would work using cameras, sensors or RFID tags to identify the shoppers and their chosen items. The shopper would then be automatically charged for the items detected as they exit the store and sent a message to confirm the amount.
The US Patent and Trademark Office confirmed last week that Amazon have filed for the “ system for automatically transitioning items from a materials handling facility without delaying a user as they exit the materials handling facility.”
According to the application: “The user may pick one or more items which are then identified and automatically associated with the user at or near the time of the item pick. When the user enters and/or passes through a transition area, the picked items are automatically transitioned to the user without affirmative input from or delay to the user.”
Amazon would need to create profiles for their shoppers and compile information about them so that they can be identified from camera images as selecting the items. Of course, this patent is not evidence Amazon is actually working on delivering the technology right away, but rather considering the idea and by registering it, their ideas regarding the potentially revolutionary store concept are preserved.
The collection of data and identifying shoppers effectively could raise concerns amongst some consumer groups. Presumably you would have to be registered to enter the store, otherwise unregistered users could come in and help themselves to items – and does this mean shoplifters would get billed for things they have stolen? We’ll be watching this story with interest and seeing if any other retailers are interested in taking on this innovative format in the future, if it works, it could be another great innovation from the retail giant.