An unwritten rule of business in the 21st Century seems to be ‘wherever Amazon goes, others will surely follow’. And just this week, Tesco became the latest corporation to follow in the US Retail giant’s footsteps with the launch of their first cashless store in Holborn, London. It follows several Amazon Fresh branches that have opened in the UK in the past year.
An apparently simple proposition whereby users are automatically charged for their purchases through their payment card linked to the Tesco App, the branch relies on an intricate network of AI-powered cameras and weight-sensors to track shoppers’ moves and choices. As well as powering the store, this data will then be fed back into marketing and personalisation.
Although this may seem like a giant leap forward in terms of technology, for Tesco, it’s a natural extension of both self-service checkouts and their Clubcard loyalty programme, which already records data on its shoppers’ purchasing habits. Data like that is invaluable to modern retailers.
So will we all be shopping like this by this time next year?
Not yet, it seems. Tesco has confirmed that their High Holborn branch is the only trial of its kind at the moment. Given that the company currently operates just over 7,000 stores, it seems this branch is more of a ripple than a revolution at this stage.
However, it’s becoming harder and harder to imagine a world where innovations such as this aren’t rapidly adopted. Just ten years ago, conducting your weekly grocery shop online was a somewhat niche behaviour, favoured by just 15% percent of consumers. Today, it’s the default choice for millions.
What impact could this have on the high street?
It’s no industry secret that the high street has taken a battering in recent years, the victim of a perfect storm of rising rent costs, labour shortages, national lockdowns, all coupled with constantly changing consumer habits. There’ll be many in the retail sector watching Tesco’s recent move with great interest. After all, if shopping could become as simple as walking into a store within minutes of your front door, picking up whatever you fancy and walking out again, then suddenly perhaps shopping online doesn’t look quite as convenient?
Whether the UK public take to this retail model remains to be seen of course, but one thing is certain. Every organisation, in every industry of every sector, needs to be open to innovation. There are swathes of seemingly indestructible organisations that have fallen victim to changing times and habits, particularly within the past 10-20 years. Make sure yours isn’t one of them.
Written by Daniel Bailey – Operations Manager