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The Greatest Retail Innovation Of The Next 30 Years

The Greatest Retail Innovation Of The Next 30 Years

Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” tech will soon be looked upon as the greatest retail innovation of the next 30 years.

The award won’t go to voice commerce. It won’t go to Zuck’s metaverse. It will go to the technology platform that first debuted inside of a small Amazon Go store in January 2018, forever offering the world a first glimpse of what checkout-free retail could and should look like.

This isn’t to say that voice or the metaverse won’t have their day in the sun at some point, too. It is just that Amazon Go is in the here and the now. What could be coming from either of them is still way too far off in the distance and likely to come, at best, in the next 30 year cycle of retail innovation.

And, make no mistake, the above mentioned “30 year cycle” matters within the context of this conversation.

Because retail innovation cycles like clockwork. Specifically, every 30 to 40 years some new invention comes around that throws retail on its head. It is a pattern that likely goes back to the dawn of time, possibly even as far back as when Jesus Christ himself first overturned the tables in the temple.

Saving the long drawn out history lesson though, one need only look back to the late 1800s to see the cycle clearly. In and around 1890, Sears debuted its first catalog. Then, in the 1920s, following the rise of the American automobile, Sears once again built its first department store in Chicago. In the 1960s, you had the dawn of the mass merchant supercenters, aka the Walmart, the Kmarts, and the Targets of the world. And then, finally, in the 1990s you had e-commerce, aka Amazon.

Thus, that next “something” is due to shake up retail, and it is absolutely crazy to think that it could be Amazon who leaves its mark for the second 30 year cycle in a row.

One can dismiss the idea all he or she wants, but the case for why Amazon Go and its “Just Walk Out” technology platform will be the next great innovation in retail is about as straightforward and well-defined as Brad Pitt’s abs:

Reason #1 – Math
Physical stores still dominate retail. Despite the pandemic, which forced everyone to shut their doors and to order more goods from e-commerce than ever before, physical stores didn’t go anywhere. They still make up 60% to 70% of overall retail sales.

In contrast, something like the metaverse stands more likely to take a slice out of e-commerce sales than it does out of physical stores. Therefore, when attributing something as “the greatest retail innovation of the next 30 years,” it is important to keep the base of sales that the technology will impact in mind.

Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology (henceforth abbreviated as JWO) stands to impact grocery store shopping, convenience store shopping, and, if Amazon’s latest foray into physical fashion retailing is any indication, apparel shopping as well.

Whether by way of Amazon deploying JWO tech for its own initiatives, licensing the tech to others, or from copycat solutions providers licensing it within these same verticals, the pie is so large that the impacted store sales stand to trump any digitally-oriented shopping innovation hands down.

Reason #2 – It creates a better shopping experience
Amazon’s JWO technology just makes shopping easier and more convenient, plain and simple.

Forbes.com, Chris Walton

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