Amazon Go’s New ‘Just Walk Out’ Shopping

Many companies today are using the power of technology to create competitive advantages for their businesses. Now more than ever, industries are attempting to meet the needs of their customers through supplying affordable products at a fast-pace. Amazon is one of the world’s leading electronic commerce and cloud computing companies. The use of the Internet allows for customers to purchase varying types of products from companies from all over the world in a quick and easy manner.

Amazon continues serving customers on a timely and convenient manner by extending their brand: Amazon Go. On Monday, January 22, the company debuted their cashier-less convenience store to the public. This store is only located near the Amazon spheres in Seattle and is open from 7am – 9pm, Monday through Friday.

Before Amazon had opened their new store to the public, Amazon Go was only open to the company’s employees for nearly 14 months. The features and benefits of this convenience store align with the target market: office workers who are pressed for time and want to quickly grab food on the go when they are hungry. The company’s goal is to eliminate the time customers wait in line to purchase a simple item, such as a sandwich or a bottle of coconut water.

Amazon Go wanted to innovate the brick-and-mortar shopping experience by intertwining the combination of shopping at a physical location, while using the internet to actually pay for the products. The store is only 1,800-square-feet. Similar to most convenience stores, Amazon Go offers a beer and wine section, a variety of pre-made sandwiches, salads, and other typical breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options. Amazon also offers customers the opportunity to purchase “chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits” that contain all the ingredients needed to make a home-cooked meal for two in thirty minutes. Unfortunately, there is no hot food selection.

Amazon GO pic 4
Customers are required to scan their phones as soon as they enter the store.

Amazon has coined this new way of shopping as “Just Walk Out” shopping. Customers must have the Amazon Go app and an account to be able to shop in the store. As soon as they walk-in, they are required to scan their phones. They are then able to help themselves while grabbing the product that they want, putting it in their bag, and then walking out without having to physically check out. The customer will then receive a receipt on their Amazon Go app of the items they purchased and then be charged on their account. If there is an item that they did not put in their bag, they have the ability to remove the item on their phone and not worry about being incorrectly billed. Amazon is following the honor system because they are just that confident in their technology. The company believes that they would be able to pinpoint sketchy behavior  because of the data collection of customer’s shopping patterns.

Amazon GO pic 3
Amazon Go’s sensory detected technology hang throughout the ceilings.

 

You may be wondering how exactly the technology behind this process works. Similar to technologies used in self-driving cars, Amazon Go uses “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning” to automatically detect the actions of the customer. Whenever a product is taken from or returned to the shelves, the “Just Walk Out” technology will keep track of each product in a virtual cart.

Although the store is cashier-less, there are still Amazon employees at the actual store that help with food preparation, assisting with any questions customers may have, and checking for valid ID for alcoholic purchases.

With cashiers being the second-most-common job in the United States, many people fear  that this technology could potentially reduce the number of cashiers needed. [1] However, Amazon stated that their goal is not to scale down the number of retail employees, but instead to expedite the convenience store experience in not having to wait in long lines.

 

On the day of the store opening, there was already a large crowd trying to get in and shop. Only a specific number of customers are allowed to enter the store at once; thus, the long line almost defeated the purpose of a quick and easy trip to the local store. Following the debut, almost a week after, customers are still having to wait outside before entering.

The concept of being able to walk into a store, purchase whichever product you desire, and then walk out changes the experience of shopping.  Many people, especially office workers and college students who are crunched for time, would greatly benefit from Amazon Go. As a college student, it would be very useful purchasing a small snack on the go and not bother taking out my wallet and having to wait in a long line to purchase the item. One drawback  is that I may purchase more items than necessary because of how I do not have the time while waiting in the check-out-line to reflect on whether I actually do need an item.

The company has not stated whether they will expand Amazon Go outside of Seattle. Thus, it will be interesting to see what will lie ahead for your average brick-and-mortar store and if other companies will follow Amazon’s lead in using technology for their shopping experiences. For right now, however, if you are ever in the Seattle area and you want to satisfy your hunger, you should definitely stop at Amazon Go.

Sources:

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-go-cashierless-convenience-store-opening-to-the-public/

https://www.amazon.com/b?node=16008589011

[1] https://www.ranker.com/list/most-common-jobs-in-america/american-jobs

Another Royal Wedding may Boost the UK’s Economy

Another royal wedding is on its way! If you have not heard by now, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement on November 27, 2017. [1] Reports have stated that the happy couple will wed spring of 2018. The last British royal wedding was in 2011 when Prince William married Kate Middleton. Six years has passed and the world is now anticipating the next royal wedding unfold.

Prince Henry of Wales is the son of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales. He is currently fifth in line for the throne after his father, his older brother (William), and his nephew (George), and niece (Charlotte). [2]

Meghan Markle is an “American actress, model, and humanitarian.” She is best known for her role as Rachel Zane on Suits, a legal drama series. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Meghan and Prince Harry undoubtedly grew up from different worlds. Following their announced engagement, Meghan “plans to retire from acting and devote her time to humanitarian causes.” [3]

Prince Harry and Meghan met from a mutual friend who had set them up on a blind date in the summer of 2016. [4] They then went on to date for the past year and a few months. Because they tried to keep their relationship private from the media as much as possible, they spent most of their time in the Nottingham Cottage in the Kensington Palace while in the UK. [5]

The news of a royal wedding not only brings about an increase in media coverage on the royal family, but also the many activities needed to be done before the actual wedding. Such activities include searching for the perfect dress, finding the venue, and creating the guest list. Such an extravaganza comes at a hefty price. We can see from Prince William and Kate’s wedding that a reported $34 million was spent. The majority of the cost ($32 million) was directed to security, while Kate’s dress totaled a grand $434,000. [6]

To show the grand scheme of how much a royal wedding costs, Brides Magazine, the UK’s NO. 1 Bridal Magazine, found that the average cost for a UK wedding is $40,567. [7] This cost includes everything ranging from the invitations to the photographer. This number is drastically smaller compared to William and Kate’s $34 million.

Along with the costs to finance the big day, a royal wedding also signifies a change in business and ultimately an increase in the economy. Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding can be seen as a sign to predict the effects of a royal wedding on the UK’s economy. Kate’s wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton, was heavily detailed with lace. It is no doubt that Kate’s strong influence impacted the trend for lace in wedding gowns and everyday fashion. This is shown in how the fashion house Alexander McQueen that created Kate’s gown saw an increased growth in operating profit by 33% in 2011, compared to the year prior. [8]

Other forms of revenue that could potentially boost the UK economy include retail spending, tourism, and pub sales. It was reported that these related facets generated between 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion U.S. dollars. Many businesses took advantage of the royal wedding by producing and selling souvenirs, such as, “Keep Calm and Marry On” posters, and “Kiss Me Kate” beer. [9] Thus, the revenue brought about from Prince William and Kate’s wedding is a sign that Prince Harry and Meghan may have similar effects on the economy.

The time period of when Meghan and Prince Harry announced their wedding date is also around the same time that Prince William and Kate’s expected third child will be due in April 2018. Not only will the royal wedding be a worldwide spectacle, but so will the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third child. Thus, the wedding and the expected child will attract even more attention to the Royal family.

On Friday, April 29, 2011, William and Kate received a bank holiday on their wedding. This day is a holiday in which british citizens are given the day off from work. A study conducted by the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) showed that the average cost of a bank holiday in the UK was $2.7 billion. [10] However, because Prince Harry is fifth in line, Theresa May stated that there will not be a bank holiday. Therefore, the UK economy will not witness a loss in revenue when Meghan and Prince Harry wed from businesses not being open.

Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, believes that the United States will have greater interest in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding then when Kate wed Prince William in 2011 because Meghan is American. [11] Meghan’s international recognition for her acting and humanitarian work can easily boost the number of visitors from the United States to the UK. Subsequently, the royal wedding will bring many international visitors to witness the coming days of the ceremony. Therefore, the increased tourism will greatly impact the UK’s economy in a positive manner.

Although I do not know much about the royal family, I find it fascinating to see how such an intimate moment in a couple’s relationship is shown for the whole world to see.  The announcement of a royal wedding signifies not only a growth in revenue for UK’s economy, but also an enhanced image of the British monarchy. It seems as though people from all over are curious to see how the wedding will turn out, shown in how there was more than 24 million viewers watching the live coverage of Prince William’s and Kate Middleton’s wedding. [12] It will be interesting to see as Spring 2018 slowly approaches the impact the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have on the world.

Sources

[1] https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/4033766/prince-harry-meghan-markle-dating-together/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Harry

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meghan_Markle

[4] http://people.com/royals/prince-harry-met-meghan-markle-blind-date/

[5] https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/5011224/nottingham-cottage-kensington-palace-prince-harry-meghan-markle/

[6] https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/most-expensive-weddings-of-all-time/12/

[7]http://www.bridesmagazine.co.uk/planning/general/planning-service/2013/01/average-cost-of-wedding

[8]https://www.huffingtonpost.com/carmen-feliciano/the-economics-of-royal-we_b_3700858.html

[9]https://www.thomaswhite.com/world-markets/the-u-k-royal-wedding-a-mixed-bag-for-the-economy/

[10]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/meghan-markle-prince-harry-engaged-wedding-latest-uk-bank-holiday-cost-extra-spending-tourism-retail-a8078071.html

[11]]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-wedding/8485325/Royal-wedding-24-million-tune-in-to-watch-Prince-William-and-Kate-Middleton-marry.html

[12] http://www.mirror.co.uk/travel/news/prince-harry-meghan-markles-wedding-11597021

 

 

Effects of Hurricane Harvey on Company Ethics

Many people know that as the transition between seasons (Summer and Fall) begins to occur, hurricanes become more frequent and even more disastrous. In the peak of hurricane season, a category 5 hurricane drastically affected the gulf-region of America.

It has been almost two months since Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast and large parts of Texas on August 25th. With winds reaching up to 130 mph, the hurricane was thus named a Category 5. The brunt of the storm was on Thursday, August 31st, as it began to move upward towards Louisiana [1]. In Texas alone, over 33,000 people sought refuge. Unlike other natural phenomenons in the past, Texas has never experienced such a catastrophic one to cause ruin and “life-threatening flooding” [2]. Weeks following these hurricanes, many corporations began to donate large amounts of money to hurricane relief programs.

Since the 1970s, the amount of money given to charitable organizations has increased. TheCharity navigator website shows the statistics of the distribution and overall amount of money America donates. In 2016, $390 billion, which was 2.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the total amount given to charities. When adjusted for inflation, this amount increased by 1.4% from 2015.

Also, from the total donations, corporations had donated up to $18 billion in 2016 [3]. Societal values in giving back have become increasingly popular, thus it is no wonder why corporations are publicly, and sometimes privately, announcing their help in donating large sums of money.

In this day and age, Corporate Social Responsibility has increased tremendously. Many businesses in America can be seen improving various aspects in their company, such as minimizing their carbon footprint and improving employee benefits. With this new social change in being an ethically good company to society, these social changes may be an obvious sign as to why many companies are willing to donate large amounts of money to hurricane reliefs.

There have been an astonishing number of hurricanes in the past decade that have caused great destruction and cost towards the affected areas. Wal-Mart, a major controversial industry, is one of the leading businesses in corporate philanthropy. The company has greatly helped in being a leader towards donating and supplying affected families with basic necessities.

Wal-Mart took action after Hurricane Katrina, one of the top five deadliest hurricanes in the United States, hitting New Orleans and the surrounding areas in 2005. The firm donated “$20 million in cash, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals, and the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers” [4].

Wal-Mart, along with Ellen DeGeneres, donated $1 million to Houston Texans player JJ Watt’s Hurricane Harvey relief fund.

In 2008, following Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike devastated large parts of Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Wal-Mart announced that they would commit $2.5 million to assist with relief efforts; including cash and product donations (food, water, and hygiene products). The company also stated that they would be longtime partners “in the area of disaster response, the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and Feeding America [5].

Just 9 years later, Hurricane Harvey is yet another storm that greatly affected the gulf-region of America. Already initiating the plan in matching the two-to-one customer donations, Wal-Mart has reached up to $30 million toward hurricane relief efforts. With the use of technology, Wal-mart is also allowing their stakeholders to donate online to the American Red Cross [6].

From the list of the worst hurricanes in the past decade, Hurricane Katrina seemed to be the storm to start the movement for corporations to help out with cleanup costs and relief programs. This started in 2005. Now in 2017, it is shown, through Wal-mart, that companies are increasing the amount of donations and improving their Corporate Social Responsibility. It will be interesting to see new ways Wal-mart and other companies will enhance their strategies in helping supply resources to the affected areas from natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.

 

Footnotes

[1]http://www.businessinsider.com/tropical-storm-harvey-hurricane-updates-map-texas-where-landfall-damage-2017-8

[2]http://www.businessinsider.com/tropical-storm-harvey-hurricane-updates-map-texas-where-landfall-damage-2017-8

[3] https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=42

[4]http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/05/AR2005090501598.html

[5]https://corporate.walmart.com/_news_/news-archive/2008/09/16/walmart-donates-25-million-in-response-to-hurricanes-ike-gustav

[6]https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/11/wal-mart-pledges-up-to-30-million-in-hurricane-relief-efforts.html