Illusion on the Wind: The "Overrated" New Retail
90% cargo damage! A staff member of an unmanned shelf withdrew the points while saying, "It was fine in the early stage, people were not familiar with it, but by now, very few paid, we can see it in the background." From windfall to ruin, the unmanned shelf fell from the altar of God in just a few months.
Two Illusions on the Windward Side
If there are two windfalls in business right now: new retail and artificial intelligence. Then again, there are probably the same two illusions that people have on these two fronts, one is overestimating human nature and the other is overestimating artificial intelligence.
The overestimation of human nature is well known in the case of unmanned shelves. And the anticipation of artificial intelligence fills the imagination with cinematic romance.
There is a big old and new cut-off in retail these days. Low efficiency and high cost are indeed the important problems of what people call old retail; but people's imagination of new retail and artificial intelligence seems to be somewhat overblown, not taking into account the current problems of retail, but expecting to create a beautiful new world with over-the-top scene layout and cool technology imagination, the two contrasts are really some, one side is seawater and the other is flame.
It has been said that retail is entering a new phase of leapfrogging supply chain-driven and social change into a new phase of intelligence-driven business, leading to a spring of artificial intelligence applications in business.
If face recognition, voice robotics these do have the possibility of breakthroughs and applications; but artificial intelligence is, after all, still at a lower stage, weak artificial intelligence is not yet mentioned, scenario-based is not too adequate, in terms of broad commercial applications, in fact, there is not a mature application environment to support. And at this point, it would be a bit irresponsible for anyone to even claim that retail unmanned vehicles are on the ground commercially.
Stability of service: the sword of Damocles for scenario innovation
Ensuring the stability of services is not only at the heart of scenario innovation, but also an important factor to consider for technology applications.
Retail is in fact a traditional and bitter industry, because it is directly facing the end consumer, facing specific people, but human behavior is often the most unstable. And this instability, not only in human nature, but also in the commercial application of many smart devices, can greatly affect the user experience once the buying habits and operating habits do not meet the design expectations.
According to an unmanned shelf staff, they have removed the unmanned shelf but will also be replenished with new unmanned containers later. The code is scanned to open the container, and if the payment operation is not performed, the next purchaser cannot open the container, and at that point the information is fed back to the shelf vendor and the staff will come to the door to regulate it. And when I asked if this would be malicious operation, the answer given by the other side was that there should be very few people doing this under the same roof, and if there were, it would have to be solved by a technical visit.
While apparent goods loss may be effectively avoided, how to prevent malicious behavior and how to keep experiential instability from affecting the shopping experience becomes a pressing issue for new retail and AI companies.
Labor costs across the service sector have risen five to eight times in the last decade, and offline retail is constrained by rent and rising labor. And it's not a good time to be online either, with the average cost of customer acquisition for one e-commerce company reportedly already as high as $140. So, whether it's the traditional retail that has been around for a thousand years or the internet stars of yesteryear, everyone is stuck in the same cost quagmire.
New retail is first about service, then about transformation
New retail is first about service, then about transformation, not simply pushing back.
If a new retailer gives an empowerment that in turn makes the empowered party suffer, that company is afraid that it will at least be chastised by its conscience.
At this stage, to serve retail well and do new retail well, you can't talk about the future in isolation from the cost. And on that level, ensuring the stability of the service is also a responsibility to the empowered party.
I learned from new retailer Ganlai that its machines have been on the ground for two years, and through the data it revealed on its service to a B-side customer, Ganlai helped the customer's sales grow by 30% and management costs drop by 15% after the scenario was built and serviced, while the average replenishment time for a single vending machine dropped by 20 minutes.
In some ways, it may be most responsible or even effective for companies to take two steps forward and one step back in landing a restrained application in the face of AI.
Pulling up the seedlings will eventually leave the field with no harvest. Lacking a mature soil, new retail can't happen overnight either.
Just like in 1946, computers were born, but going from a large mainframe computer, to 14" or even 10" in size, during which time they would not have taken shape as they are today without the spread of the internet, the acceleration of internet speeds, and other factors that paved the way.
In other words, the new retail business is the same, on the way to reduce costs and improve efficiency, if no stable service is formed, no mature market experience is achieved, no long commercial landing, then this business model are to be tested.