Will Amazon Go Eventually Destroy Millions of Jobs Worldwide?

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Even if you don’t shop on Amazon, here’s why you might want to shop at Amazon Go (no relation to Pokémon Go).

Amazon Go is a brick-and-mortar shop with a difference. You walk into the store, take whatever it is you want to buy, and then walk right out of the shop with it. There’s no need to deal with standing in line at the checkout counter. When you leave the shop, your credit card automatically gets charged for whatever you bought. Still no idea what we’re talking about? This will blow your mind:

While the first Amazon Go store is in the US and is at the moment only available to employees of the company, the first stores open to the public will be unleashed in 2017.

What’s most important, though, is the fact that the model of automated shopping that’s introduced by Amazon Go is likely to change the world of retail.

And if you’re still not convinced, here’s the kicker—because there will no longer be the need to employ as many retail staff, businesses are going to save an estimated 15%–which can then be passed on to customers.

 

The automated shopping concept can apply to more than just Amazon

It’s easy to see how, with the success of Amazon Go, lots of other retailers will jump on the automation bandwagon. The old model, where people show up at the stores and then interact with sales and check-out staff to get what they want, just doesn’t make sense anymore.

The beauty of automated shopping is that the concept doesn’t just apply to traditional retailers. We go out and patronise a range of other organisations, many of which can benefit from automation.

For instance, Silicon Valley-based Theranos played with the possibility of automating blood tests. Usually, you need to show up at a clinic or hospital and have your blood excruciatingly taken with a needle, and the sample is then sent to a lab for testing.

What Theranos tried to do was to simplify the blood testing process, making it cheaper and easier for patients to commission their own tests. If the company had succeeded, patients would be able to draw a finger-prick of blood for their tests rather than endure the pain of a traditional blood test. This blood would be shipped in a nanocontainer to one of their labs. While Theranos’ blood test results were later voided on scientific grounds, it’s easy to see why the concept would have been attractive to patients (which could also explain why in 2014 it was valued at $9 billion).

 

Will jobs be lost?

If a retail job is your bread and butter, you have reason to be afraid. One of the reasons automated shopping is so attractive to retailers is the fact that operating costs will be lower since fewer retail employees will be needed.

On the other hand, automated shopping will create jobs, too. It is likely more logistics and inventory staff will be needed, as well as employees to perform supplementary retail functions like customer service. And of course, as is the trend these days, tech workers and engineers stand to benefit greatly.

However, the net effect of automated shopping is that the total number of available jobs will fall.

 

Retailers must adapt or die

Retail is a tough game in Singapore due to high rents. Malls on Orchard Road are turning into deserted islands as tenants pull out. Brick-and-mortar retailers have had to deal with competition from online retailers and overseas shopping.

The introduction of automated shopping is going to put further pressure on retailers as they’ll now have one other reason to upgrade or die.

 

More unequal wealth distribution

The long-term implications of automated retail are more sinister. Since the number of retail industry employees will be reduced and many of the jobs that will be cut are low-earning service jobs, a greater proportion of retail-derived wealth will be concentrated in the hands of companies.

In a society like Singapore, where corporate and personal income taxes are low, this also means that the government will do little to redistribute this wealth.

But, as a lay consumer whose job doesn’t depend on retail, the lower prices and added convenience mean that there’ll be a whole lot of people looking forward to the automated retail experience.

How do you think automated retail will change the world? Tell us in the comments!

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.