As Amazon announce that they are finally going to start delivering on Sundays, we have taken a look at their drone concepts and some other innovations that are probably not going to change the future of retail.

1. Augmented Reality

Retail innovation is about to take a cool, weird, and probably completely unnecessary turn. Chinese E-Commerce Grocer, Yihaodian has developed augmented reality retail stores that can only be accessed in certain public locations.

It works like this: when customers are in a certain spot, they can hold up their smartphones and point them in a certain direction and a virtual reality store will appear. The customer can then peruse items that sit on imaginary shelves or hang from imaginary walls. And I imagine there’s probably also an imaginary spill on aisle twelve too.

The idea here is that public locations such as public squares, or even open fields or derelict sites can be converted into VR stores. Here’s a video explaining how it would work, if it weren’t completely bonkers:

2. Drones and the One-hour Delivery

I’ve always loved that scene in The Fifth Element where the takeaway guy floats up to Bruce Willis’ window and serves him right there on the spot. So, in theory, I should be really excited by the advent of heli-drones delivering cool stuff right to my door. But I’m not.

Even if you ignore the fact that these drones are almost certain to never receive approval from the FAA, and set aside the fact that they don’t have the battery life to get where they’re supposed to, they still don’t actually solve a problem worth solving.

While I’m on the movie reference track, this obsession with the speed of delivery reminds of the classic Jeff Goldblum line from Jurassic Park, ‘your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should’.

The retail startup road is paved with the bodies of failed businesses that were looking to revolutionize delivery – think webvan.com, pets.com, etc. I may eat my words in the future but the truth is that next-day delivery is good enough for most people and there are certain products that people seem perfectly happy picking up at the grocery store. For a few niche products that people just MUST HAVE that second, this kind of innovation might be useful but otherwise, it’s just not going to happen.

And because at Counter Culture, we never miss the opportunity to bash major e-commerce players, here’s a roundup of the best twitter jokes about Amazon’s Drone project.

 

3. The Way We Pay

It seems that barely a day can go by without some new startup coming forward and sharing how they are going to revolutionize the way we pay. A personal favorite is Clinkle, the Silicon Valley startup run by a 22 year old that has raised $25 million and that has been in ‘stealth mode’ for more than three years – without ever releasing a public product. You’ve got to love Silicon Valley.

The innovation in this space is constant and yet, people seem fundamentally focused on the wrong aspect of the experience. The process of taking out my card and swiping it just isn’t, to use the startup industry parlance, ‘broken’.

Mobile payments may very well become a real thing in the near future, (especially if Apple decides to leverage it’s huge bank of iTunes credit card details) but at Counter Culture, we’re more excited by technology that changes how the customer experiences the retail environment.

Technology that allows a small business owner to personalize their up-sell recommendations based on a customer’s previous purchases. Now that would be useful.

About the Author

Paul Nugent is a small business advocate, and Head of Marketing at ShopKeep point of sale’s UK headquarters. Paul uses his background in the startup space, along with his POS system expertise, to allow small business owners to make informed decisions within their specific budgets.