Until now, nearly all consumer spending has faced a final barrier that is underrated in its ability to stop the most egregious and unnecessary purchases. That barrier has been targeted by retailers for a long time, and just cracked.
Amazon has had the "Go" project in the works for quite a while. I saw it coming years ago - in successive drafts of the book, the topic went from a paragraph of "could-be" to a page of "coming soon." It sounded as loopy and absurd as many of the other things I wrote about early, like consumer tracking, food engineering for addiction and the dangers of big data. But then I saw ads for staffing Amazon's Go division last month... and here's the big reveal.
There's way too much to say about this to even try to make this a complete analysis or even informative essay, so I won't try in this pass. But this change, the elimination of the checkout, may have more effect on consumer spending resistance than many of the data- and behaviorally-driven changes in retailing before it. Oh... I don't mean it will improve consumer resistance. Quite the opposite. When everything is "free," when there's no universal and formal moment of reckoning store choices with the reality of cost... we're looking at pure hindbrain to wallet spending, free of (enough) conscious, rational consideration.
Which, of course, is nirvana for retailers. That pesky resistance of consumers, their stubbornness at not making SeeWantBuy their operating principle, has vexed marketers and sellers for generations. Now, as I noted in the developing book, we're even closer to the marketing ideal of SeeBuy, with "Want" just automatic and assumed.
This is too depressing, so let's close out with an old joke I eventually worked into the book draft and will now probably relegate to a footnote.
An old Scotsman came to America and eventually found himself in a modern grocery store. Overwhelmed at the vast range of goods, he quickly began to fill his shopping cart with glee. When there was no more room, he headed for the exit, only to find his way blocked by the checkout line. "Dom!" he cried. "Ah knew there'd be a catch!"
And to some degree, we all depend on that "catch" a little. It's not uncommon to see shoppers at Target (mostly younger, some not-so, all naive) reach the cashier with full basket, balk at the total, and slowly remove items from their order until it meets some pre-defined limit. A limit they could not seem to consider as they shopped. We can all smirk and roll our eyes at such lack of arithmetic and logic skills, but will we still be smirking when barrierless checkout becomes as common as the irritating self-checkout kiosks?
I don't know. I do know that removing the last "catch" in consumer spending represents a terrible offensive in this war, and one consumers are utterly unprepared to resist.