Tech tail wagging the dog
Multiple media outlets, including Reuters, reported that Microsoft is working on technology that “would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores”. This is apparently in a nascent challenge to Amazon's automated grocery shop. Microsoft is working on systems that will track what shoppers add to their carts. The systems will rely on a combination of customers’ phones, cameras, and sensors. A claim was made that this will work well for grocers. Our view has not changed: simply because something is technologically possible (and expensive) doesn’t mean that it makes practical sense. What about people who don’t have smartphones (still about 10% in Australia), what about shrinkage, or someone throwing an item into somebody else’s cart? What about the correct handling of fresh meat, produce and other items that are somewhat less precisely defined as SKUs in comparison to a simple can of baked beans? What about this complex electronic ecosystem experiencing issue? Finally, what about genuine customer service? A good history lesson can be learned from the Great Eastern experience. Complexity results in clumsy solutions.