By Rachel Gladwin

Businesses go looking for retail marketing help because they want to make it easier for consumers to decide to buy their products.

At the moment, there are big moves afoot that could lead to truly “frictionless shopping” – where you simply walk into a store and walk out with your items, without being chased by the store detective.

Technology is making it easier for people to buy. You won’t even have to reach for your wallet. For those who find even contactless payment too much of an effort, it’s a dream come true.

Microsoft is the latest big name to get involved in frictionless shopping, following on the heels of the Amazon Go convenience chain and a pilot scheme in Manchester that have latched on to the consumer marketing trend.

It’s reported that Microsoft is working on checkout-free supermarkets with Walmart. Customers would grab a trolley, wander the aisles filling it up, then walk straight out the door.

Multiple cameras would deduce which items you were buying, tot up the price, then deduct the total from your account automatically as you leave.

Sensors and cameras

Amazon launched a trial of a similar scheme in an Amazon Go store in its home town of Seattle last year, sensors helping cameras with the process. It’s due to expand to other US cities soon.

The UK version sees shoppers using an app to scan their goods with their smartphones as they pick them off the shelves. The app takes the total spend from their bank account when they leave the store.

Retailers – particularly big names with big premises – need retail marketing help as shoppers opt for the convenience the internet offers.

What frictionless shopping delivers is that convenience. There’s no need to queue for 10 minutes when you can walk straight out with your purchases.

Why lug your items out of the trolley and onto the conveyor belt when the trolley knows what you’re buying and you can put it straight in your shopping bag?

Knocking even five minutes off the weekly shop in our time-poor society is the kind of consumer marketing win that makes a difference.

A lot less inconvenient

Not having to worry about queueing when you’ve had to nip into a convenience store for bread and milk on the way home makes it a lot less inconvenient.

These early attempts at frictionless shopping are one of the signals that retailers recognise they have to change.

Much as Jeff Bezos’s move into bricks and mortar stores with Amazon Go shows there is still a need for a physical shopping presence in the internet shopping age, traditional retailers have to adapt to market changes or suffer the consequences.

That means three things – having a point of difference, offering the shopper value (whether in pure monetary terms or in shopper experience), and bending to fit the consumer’s desire for an easy life.

Retail marketing helps with the first two. Great consumer marketing, PR and advertising can establish a brand’s unique offering and attitude, make it cool, or wholesome or reliable and demonstrate what you give the shopper besides a good price on the products you sell.

But making life easier for the consumer requires institutional change. Whether these first shoots of frictionless shopping will bear fruit remains to be seen. But any attempt to give shoppers back some of their valuable time has to be welcomed.

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