The future of the retail industry is set to change drastically in the coming years, with both online and physical retailers doing their best to automate as many areas of the industry as possible.
All large retailers will have their eye on developing technologies to continually improve services, but Amazon has been one of the most high-profile retailers of late to have several technological advancements hit the headlines. The most ground-breaking of these potential changes was uncovered in late December 2016, when it was revealed that Amazon had filed a patent for flying warehouses which would allow them to dispatch flocks of delivery drones to key metropolitan locations.
The warehouses, called “airborne fulfilment centres”, would fly up to 45,000 feet high and use “Unmanned aerial vehicles”, otherwise known as drones, to deliver items nearly instantaneously to shoppers.
Amazon has been looking into various drone designs for years, but made its first successful commercial delivery using a drone on 7 December 2016. The online retailer has claimed that its upcoming delivery service will deliver all orders within 30 minutes, although they are currently still in a period of testing. Beyond the testing privileges currently granted to Amazon, UK legislation currently bans drones being flown within 50 metres of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure, or within 150 metres of a congested area.
Amazon is not only focusing on the online retail industry, it also opened its first physical check-out free grocery store in the US on 5 December 2016, called ‘Amazon Go’, where customers are able to walk out of the shop without queuing or paying at the checkout. The new technology uses sensors to record the items customers pick up and charge them to their account. On the same day the physical store opened, Amazon made applications to register the trade mark “Amazon Go” in the UK and the EU, indicating that it is looking to bring the checkout-free stores across the pond.
There have been significant changes in the way people shop in the last ten years. This has been fuelled by advancements in technologies such as the internet and software for individual consumer profiling, to name but two. Legislation to cope with these shifting paradigms has all too often been retrospectively introduced. It will be interesting to observe how well legislature will meet the demands of coping with ever-faster technological developments in the retail sector.