Retail Will Never Be the Same Again

No checkout lines, no cashiers, and no registers.

A millennial’s paradise seems to be a world where all traces of human interaction are removed. More than that, it’s a world where everything is efficient and streamlined.

The tech companies leading the automation revolution are already working to capitalise on this with innovative solutions that could completely alter how we physically shop and transact.

And what better way to simplify the retail process than to remove humans from the equation? Human interaction, after all, is messy, slow and unpredictable.

Amazon, a company already well known for being a retail disruptor, has recently unveiled a new store where you can ‘just walk out’.

Amazon Go is essentially a convenience store with a similar layout and product range to your average 7/11. But you won’t find any cash registers or self-checkout machines inside. Nor many staff at all.

Instead, the store is fitted with cameras and shelf sensors that track what items you pick up. Upon leaving the store through the electronic gates, you’re automatically charged for the items via the Amazon Go app.

While it may feel like shoplifting, the technology actually makes it near impossible to do so. And with no interaction, queues or machines to slow you down, you can be in and out in under a minute.

As you can imagine, the store has been a huge hit since it opened in Seattle on Monday. Most people have likely gone for the sheer novelty of buying an item and experiencing the thrill of walking out without directly paying someone.

But in time, this could become the norm for retail. It could change the very nature of what a ‘convenience’ store means. And it could happen just as quickly as self-checkout machines became the norm for grocery shopping.

Indeed, it’s not unlikely that artificial intelligence (AI) could soon be coming to a Coles or Kmart near you. 

Most people find this kind of innovation exciting. Myself included. But Australia — and the world — is critically underprepared for the automation of our workforce.

The changing nature of work is no longer hypothetical. The 4,000 NAB employees made redundant by AI last year found that out the hard way.

And while it’s difficult to predict the future, Amazon Go is a good indicator of what’s to come. If we don’t prepare accordingly, it will be to our detriment.

Even Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai agrees that the development of artificial intelligence and automation will be more profound than ‘electricity or fire’.

There’s no question that this shift towards automation will be profound. And as these tech giants come full circle to conquer the physical realm, I’m sure it won’t be long before we can walk into a Google store and make a purchase from an artificially-intelligent being.

Developments like Amazon Go should ignite debate on whether machines could become — if they’re not already — superior to humans in the workforce. Debate that will hopefully prepare us for the new tech-encrusted reality that we will all soon be living in.

To learn how you can navigate and potentially exploit the collision of tech and human life, click here.

This week in Markets and Money:

On Monday, Shae predicted that this year could be a turning point for gold. Based on its prolonged bull run, in a few years we might never again see an ounce of gold below US$1,400. It’s a common misconception that gold only rises in times of global uncertainty or low interest rates. Because often, as we’re witnessing now, it will make stealthy moves higher while the economy is calm. So while many have their backs turned to gold, now could be the time to take advantage of this bullish metal.

To read the full story, click here.

On Tuesday, Shae examined official economic statistics more closely. The numbers would have you believe that unemployment is down, jobs growth is up, and consumer confidence is stronger than ever. Even the headlines are touting that Australia is entering ‘boom times’ again. However, it might all be smoke and mirrors to cover up the real story. Shae revealed why so many new jobs were created last year. Information that could potentially determine whether the RBA will raise interest rates in 2018.

For more on this story, click here.

On Wednesday, Shae noted that the unemployment rate differs across different research boards. While the ABS asserts that it’s sitting at 5.5%, Roy Morgan Research suggests it’s closer to 9.8%. This discrepancy isn’t taken into account by policymakers however, and analysts are predicting that the ‘strong’ employment data could lead to a rate rise this year. But what most don’t realise is that wage growth has been in a slump since 2012…all thanks to a wage agreement backed by the unions. And for the RBA’s decision on a rate rise this year, this lack of wage growth could be a deciding factor.

To read the full story, click here.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump continued to take credit for the booming US economy. While it’s easy to chalk this assertion up to his arrogance, there’s no doubt that Trump’s US$1.5 trillion tax cuts played a role. And it’s likely that they will push the market even higher. What’s strange, then, is the fact that the US dollar is weak. In the space of a year, the dollar has fallen 14% against the euro and the British pound. And if it continues to head south, Shae believes the dominance of the greenback might become a thing of the past.

For all the details on this story, click here.

On Friday, the first bitcoin futures contract expired. This was after a turbulent month for bitcoin full of stomach-churning drops. Since futures have been open, however, bitcoin has been trading at a higher price than that of its futures contracts. While this is a bullish sign, bitcoin futures differ greatly from all other commodity trading on the futures exchange. And to make the most of bitcoin’s potential, Shae says that we need to employ a new way of thinking about it.

To read the full story, click here.

Kind regards,

Katie Johnson,
Editor, Markets & Money

Katherine Johnson, usually going by just ‘Katie’, is a member of Port Phillip Publishing’s editorial team, as well as the Editor of the Saturday edition of Markets & Money. Katie works with all of your editors to maintain the quality of their research and analysis. In her Saturday Markets & Money articles she specialises in cryptocurrency and technology stories, and brings you a recap of the week from your other Markets and Money editors.

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