CEO at Trigo.

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Your business’s goals may be highly ambitious, but—like many other businesses—they may also be shortsighted. As Bill Gates explains: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

In other words, when looking ahead, spend less time thinking about motions and more time thinking about systems. Why? Because if anticipated short-term outcomes don’t occur, you’ve invested time and money in a “losing” proposition. On the other hand, you’re setting your business up for long-term prosperity when you invest in ideas that don’t necessarily have immediate results but pay off repeatedly over the years.

For a clear illustration of just how important it is to think about short-term and long-term goals, look no further than the list of 1955 Fortune 500 companies compared to the 2019 list. Only 52, or just over 10% of the companies, appear on both lists. What happened to the other 448? They either went bankrupt, were acquired or still exist but have fallen from the list.

Companies that have appeared on the Fortune 500 list every year since 1955 include Boeing, Campbell Soup, General Motors, IBM, Kellogg Company and Procter and Gamble. Why did these still highly recognized companies survive while so many others, like Armstrong Rubber, did not? The short answer is they kept changing to keep up with the times and customer demands.

Seamless Checkout: The Evolution Of Retail Tech

The retail store checkout experience has slowly but surely evolved over the last decade. For the last several years, there’s been a lot of talk of how it will “soon” be undergoing enormous changes. Forward-thinking retail businesses, though, are already making innovations like seamless checkout a part of their short- and long-term strategies.

Today, retail technology is adapting and changing not only to stay relevant but also to improve customer experiences. Mobile wallets are the advanced technology that most consumers have used, and many haven’t been thrilled with the experience. While the wallets eliminate the need to pull out a debit or credit card, they still require standing in line or using a self-checkout machine to make purchases.

Real change is being brought about by technologies that are “blowing up” the model of taking purchases to the cash register altogether. The most well-known example of this is the Amazon Go stores, with their “Just Walk Out” shopping experience, where people choose the products they want, load them in a virtual cart and simply leave the store without waiting in the checkout line.

Retail visionaries are dedicated to making the checkout disappear, and they’re doing it with technologies that go one step further than digital walk-out setups like Amazon Go, whose effectiveness appears to be constrained by the size of the store. Startup companies are now investing in systems that are built into stores themselves, which they believe is the best way to bring Amazon Go-like technology into any size supermarket in a cost-effective manner. These disruptive, AI-driven technologies continue to have the backing of investors, with retail tech appearing to now be attracting more interest than e-commerce.

Why Autonomous Stores Matter Now

Innovative autonomous stores and seamless checkout experiences focus on eliminating three pain point levels in the customer experience:

1. Interaction-Level Pain Points: Customers are forced to waste time finding what they want.

2. Journey-Level Pain Points: Drawn-out shopping experiences frustrate customers to where they just walk away.

3. Relationship-Level Pain Points: Customers are expected to do things like watch ads to receive a service.

Retailers who want to delight shoppers must eradicate these pain points and provide a seamless, intelligent and intuitive shopping experience. In-store AI-driven technologies can help you reformulate operations and use digital solutions to reduce shrinkage, optimize labor, improve inventory control and boost growth and profitability. The secret to achieving autonomous success, however, lies in understanding human psychology.

Many companies face pitfalls when implementing autonomous stores, including:

• A lack of technology readiness.

• Demographic factors like age and socioeconomic status.

• Perceived complexity and risks, including security breaches.

• Feeling a loss of control.

• Elimination of meaningful experiences.

These challenges go a long way in explaining why most consumers still prefer non-autonomous checkout experiences. Still, there are steps retailers can take to win reluctant customers over, such as:

Mobilizing store associates to engage customers.

Managing queues and streamlining checkout processes by giving customers the option to choose either an AI-driven experience or one where they interact with a live person.

Using analytics to relieve bottlenecks, identify which times of day require more staff coverage and open more point-of-sale machines to speed up checkout lines.

The Future: Nearer Than You Think

Circling back to the Fortune 500 lists, it’s easy to see why some companies have managed to stay relevant. They’re plugged into what consumers want, think long-term and are willing to adapt and change with the times.

McKinsey believes the current recovery for industries, including retail, will be digital. Autonomous stores are an innovative way for retailers to stay relevant and meet customer demands while transforming their cost structure and generating higher profits.

Over the past year and a half, retail industry digitalization has quickly shifted its focus from product development to consumer needs, combining customer experience with operational excellence. From seamless checkout to cost optimization, companies are finding out that building adaptable business models allows them to stay flexible and profitable, something a few visionary Fortune 500 companies would likely identify with.


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