There were lots of gizmos, new ideas and doodads at this year’s National Retail Federation’s conference in Manhattan last month, but what you couldn’t find there was Amazon.
That’s because Amazon is the one who is forcing other retailers to respond to its new ideas and innovations in retail, continually disrupting and breaking the barrier.
I put on a VR headset at Vive’s exhibit, and walked around a digital supermarket shooting breakfast cereals with hand controllers. It was fun. I was then virtually transported to a home (meant to be mine), where I opened the fridge and shot at a near empty milk-bottle, which added it to my online order.
I also bought beer and toothpaste via Samung’s internet fridge at Mastercard’s Cashless booth and a booked and paid for a flight via Facebook Chat. And how could I forget Pepper, the retail store assistant of the future, who helped me find the perfect sneaker.
These are some of the gizmos on display at the NRF Retail’s Big Show, all clearly in response to Amazon. The online giant has seen steady growth over the last year as consumers increasingly opt for online purchases over leaving the confines of their home to buy laundry detergent and television sets.
The company has dipped its toe in the physical space as well, with book stores and college drop off locations around the US. Last month however, saw traditional retailers shaking in their boots a little, with the launch of Amazon’s cashless grocery store Amazon Go, that takes out the checkout process. Just walk in, pick up what you need, and walk out.
I think traditional retailers are very scared. Red flags first went up when Amazon forced retailers to rethink their websites, and now they’ll have to rethink their stores too.
Wal-Mart recently announced the axing of 1,000 jobs at its US headquarters, while it touted the addition of new e-commerce related retail jobs from expanding its online services. US based department stores Macy’s and Lowes also announced thousands of layoffs this month, as traditional retailers report declining in-store sales.
Amazon, however has seen double-digit revenue growth, and has just unveiled plans to increase its workforce by 100,000 in the US. It was only last week in Australia that Amazon job ads surfaced on the internet, with more than 100 roles advertised in IT, sales, marketing and HR.
I caught up an executive from Amazon for dinner last week in Soho, Manhattan. When I asked them if Amazon attended NRF’s conference the response was “It’s beneath us. We are the innovators. Why would we go?” I guess that pretty much sums up a few things doesn’t it. I also asked them about Amazon coming to Australia. The response went like this “Aren’t we already there?” Well don’t we know it.