19th-century attitude to 21st-century ‘new normal’

23 January 2018

This week Amazon Go finally opened its doors to the public, after 4 years of development and over a year of testing with its staff.

The reaction to the concept on social media would appear to be mixed – with many an outcry in relation to the reduction in social interaction and employment that it will cause. I’m sure that the Industrial Revolution caused some pretty emotional reactions at the time too…

It’s normal for us to feel scared by the new, and it hits a current nerve in many countries in relation to employment, when we’re still recovering from a recession. But life’s norms change and we do adapt to the new normal. Of course that ability to adapt will need to happen even more rapidly as changes are now coming about so much quicker than they’ve ever done before.

We go to the supermarket to shop because that’s what we’ve always done. Funnily enough my family rarely shops in a traditional ‘big shop’ way now. We prefer to make use of delivery services, so freeing us up to spend time as we wish. Shopping for the speciality items becomes then more of an experience – a nice piece of fish for supper, maybe – with filler shops for just a few items as and when required (the method of choice for Millennials too, interestingly).

Those concerned that jobs will be lost should really just consider how those jobs will change. This again has been the norm as technology has developed.

Amazon’s concept has been considered for over 25 years. The Smartstore concept that we developed with Accenture back in the early 90s featured many of the retail concepts that we now see as normal today – home delivery, self check out, scanning trolleys, ordering items from barcode scans/devices from home. Retailers are now moving from large to small stores and becoming the food ‘distributors’ of the future, as attitudes and habits change not just the way we shop, but many of the societal norms.

Whilst it’s sad to see the poor social response to Amazon Go, it’s not surprising. Change often causes distrust. It will be interesting to see how the imminent tsunami of change over the coming years – and it will be a tsunami – will be handled by society and our varying cultures across the globe.