Shopping is becoming increasingly streamlined. We used to think self-checkouts were the cutting edge of technology, but we’ve come a long way since then.
Here are a few examples:
- Smart carts that will total up your items for you — and even make suggestions based on your choices
- Restaurants where you can order and pay for your food on a tablet
- Smartphone checkout apps, which allow customers to purchase items in their stores without ever speaking to a salesperson or going through a traditional checkout line
So what’s next in the effort to streamline the shopping experience?
Automatic electronic checkout.
Here’s how it works: After you’ve been established as a customer, sensors in the store will identify you by one of your electronic devices. To make a purchase, all you’ll have to do is pick up an item and walk out the door with it (formerly known as shoplifting!). Scanners at the door will pick up the product’s UPC code and automatically charge you using your pre-approved method of payment.
While all of this sounds remarkably convenient (and just plain cool), there are two main concerns:
Will retail workers lose their jobs?
Obviously, if electronic devices were checking customers out (in a consistently more friendly way than some grumpy sales clerks), retailers would need fewer workers to run registers. As with any type of technological advancement, some jobs will become obsolete.
But I, for one, don’t see this happening in retail. There will always be the need — and desire — for some human interaction in the process. Those who choose to do their shopping without ever having to interact with another person will be able to do so, which might mean fewer impatient, complaining customers giving retailers bad reviews. But on the other hand, there will never be 100% participation in this type of technology, so retail jobs will still be required. So yes, this may have an impact on retail jobs, but not a significant one.
Is it secure?
Considering the large-scale security breach that recently endangered the personal information of thousands of Target customers, many people are understandably leery of devices that store and access their financial information. Gaining the trust of clientele may be the biggest hurdle that retailers cross if they wish to incorporate this kind of technology in the future.
The potential for security issues is definitely a problem that will have to be addressed and thoroughly worked out if automatic checkout processes are to become popular. Those who already use similar technology to, say, instantly purchase e-books in a chain store like Barnes & Noble, probably won’t be deterred by taking it to the next level; whereas those who won’t even use their debit cards at the register will be even more leery of paying “invisibly.”
The Bottom Line
Technology is amazing. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any more advanced, something new comes along. By now, we should be used to technology transforming nearly every aspect of our lives, but sometimes there are still things that come as a surprise.
What are your thoughts? Are you a traditionalist who sticks to what you know? Are you distrusting of what seems to be excessive computerization of simple processes?
Or do you embrace the change as yet another way to make your shopping experience easier and faster?