JD.com Chief Executive Richard Liu is predicting that robots will eventually supplant human workers in the retail industry. While Liu believes the change is inevitable, the transition may take some time, Reuters reported.
“Sooner or later, our entire industry will be operated by AI (artificial intelligence) and robots, not humans,” Liu said at an event in Spain.
JD.com is already investing in technology such as drones, robotics and automation. In addition, the company has constructed a large logistics network. Even so, Liu thinks it may take another decade for the technology and for shoppers to be ready for fully automated retail stores. But the executive said retailers in the West may not have to adapt to an automated future as quickly as merchants in the East. In China, Liu said, shoppers are apt to try new things and demand faster delivery.
The news comes as Amazon’s automated convenience store, Amazon Go, opened in January in Seattle. According to a report in Recode, the store, which was in development for five years, is located on the ground floor of the eCommerce giant’s new headquarters. The store is filled with technologies not typically found in a U.S. convenience store.
Recode reported that upon entering the Amazon Go store, customers are able to choose from premade salads, sandwiches, snacks and meals, as wells as beer, wine and other beverages. Shelves are also stocked with produce, meat and Amazon meal kits.
In order to shop in the store, customers must first download the Amazon Go app on their mobile device and scan the app upon entering. Customers then proceed to shop, but they don’t have to check out when exiting. Instead, the store will use cameras and sensors on shelves, as well as a computer vision system, to scan the items being purchased and automatically charge them to the shopper’s Amazon account.
While Amazon Go won’t need cashiers, it still needs employees to perform such tasks as checking IDs for alcohol purchases and preparing food in the store’s kitchen.