Cash in on cashless stores, not driverless vehicles

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While the auto industry and its high-tech partners have been driving high-profile publicity touting driverless vehicles as a reality just a few years away, Trends Research Institute tracking shows that hype is overblown.

Instead, the reality of cashless – cash-register less – stores is a real, imminent high-tech advancement that will radically change the retail sector.

The big buzz in the United States recently was that Amazon opened a cashier-free convenience store in January. Amazon Go requires customers to scan their smartphone when entering. The store then tracks them with cameras and sensors as they browse. As they make selections, taking items off the shelf, a virtual cart records the purchase. Grocery items are charged to their Amazon account; customers leave without formally “checking out.”

Trying to keep up with Amazon’s automated stores, Walmart will test its own.

Dubbed “Project Kepler” by Walmart’s Code Eight research-and-development subsidiary, the system would use computer vision to itemize customer purchases and charge their accounts or plastic cards.

The project also is testing to allow customers to text orders to local stores. Robots would pull items for pick-up or delivery. Household items would be delivered within 24 hours. Larger or less common purchases might take two days.

But here’s what’s virtually absent from the American media: The Trends Journal’s  long-stated forecasts that China will out-tech, and indeed is out-teching, Silicon Valley as predicted in our 2016 Top Trend, “Silicon Valley: Rustbelt 2.0.”

Last July, Alibaba, the Chinese online shopping giant, debuted a cashier-less mini-mart in Hong Kong. And, once again reinforcing one of our Top Trends for 2018, “Brick and Mortar Bounce Back,” Alibaba is buying up “old-fashioned” retail and grocery businesses in China – and, we forecast, soon around the world.

TREND FORECAST: Look beyond robots replacing humans in the workforce. Cashier-less stores, for example, mean retailers will sharply reduce customer-service employee ranks. High-tech will make the sale, do the talking and answer customer questions. For a retail industry constrained by tight margins and stiff competition, the bottom line is the top priority. Providing human experiences is less essential in an Alexa/Siri smartphone world.