Last month, Reuter sources revealed a collaboration between Microsoft and Walmart to phase out checkouts. Industry veterans have now had time to mull the consequences of such a move, and ZDNet has reached out to them for comment.
Speaking to the publication, Shana Pilewski spoke about her perspective as a boss at machine learning and digital marketing company Dynamic Yield. According to Pilewski, statistics from Loup Ventures estimate cashier-less checkout will be a $50 billion market in the US, making it a strong move from both companies.
Specifically, the partnership would give Walmart and Microsoft a huge advantage over Amazon:
“This partnership signifies a massive advantage for Walmart over Amazon, truly level-setting in terms of the innovation and insights we thought Amazon Go stores would spearhead,” said Pilewski. “Walmart would immediately gain access to vital customer experience data that would allow it to continue iterating on an entirely new way of shopping — all of this happening as Amazon fights to catch up in a few stores across the US, where the amount of data would pale in comparison.”
The Future is Still Uncertain
Unfortunately, as Pilewski admits, we have no solid evidence of how Microsoft’s solution would work. It’s likely it would utilize the mobile phone in some way, taking advantage of location and other sensors. It would greatly increase convenience for those whose jobs won’t be displaced.
However, from a marketing perspective, it could also be a holy grail. By collecting data of everything a user purchases at specific times and locations, companies could refine the promotion and shopping experience further. Combine this with data from other sources and systems may be able to suggest relevant nearby items to users or ones users have forgotten.
The result, says Pilewski, is a future that could look very different.
“The fact that this partnership is set to pose a significant threat to Amazon means the next 10 years are destined to look completely different than what we picture now — instead of scrolling through Facebook on our phones while we wait in line for a cashier to scan, bag, and charge us for our items, we’ll be using them to check ourselves out and be on about our day,” she finishes.
It’s a vision that entirely contradicts the beliefs of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Just a few months ago, he said that robots and AI will assist humans rather than replace them. In a world where mobile phones can do the job of multiple employees more efficiently, that’s looking increasingly unlikely.
You can view the full interview on ZDNet.