Eight-decade-old French retailer Monoprix took issue with Amazon’s techno-prophetic rhetoric in an elaborate video it produced to unveil its cashierless convenience store — and responded with a parody.
When Amazon.com in December launched an experimental convenience store in downtown Seattle where customers could skip the checkout line, it portrayed Amazon Go, as the concept is known, as having “the world’s most advanced shopping technology,” like the kind seen in driverless cars.
An elaborate video released by Amazon on YouTube for the occasion showed shoppers walking through well-stocked aisles, picking up items that were automatically added to their online cart just by taking them off the shelf, or removed by putting the products back.
A disembodied male narrator addressed the issue via a rhetorical question: “What if we could weave the most advanced machine learning computer vision and (artificial intelligence) into the very fabric of a store so you never have to wait in line? … No lines. No checkout, no register.”
The announcement was lambasted by a union representing store employees, which said Amazon was endangering millions of cashier jobs. It also sparked waves of commentary by retail experts and dread among rivals. One of them, eight-decade-old French retailer Monoprix, took issue with Amazon’s techno-prophetic rhetoric — and responded with humor.
Amazon “described this service as a very futurist, innovative and creative one. In fact, it corresponded in many ways to what already existed in our store (for) many years,” a Monoprix spokeswoman recently told The Seattle Times via email.
Monoprix’s “Livraison à domicile +” is a 10-year-old service that lets shoppers just leave their cart at a stand with a cashier and exit the store. The groceries are delivered at the customer’s home, one hour later, and the payment is made there.
So a couple of weeks after Amazon Go’s unveiling, Monoprix launched a parody highlighting its home-delivery service.
“Everything you pick up you add to your basket like usual,” said a French-accented narrator, in English, in a video closely modeled after Amazon Go’s.
“If you change your mind about that cupcake, just put it back. But to be honest, we don’t see many people putting back our cupcakes.”
As for the “how it works” part, Monoprix says it learned from its customers and combined that knowledge with “Monoprix DNA.”
“We call it human technology,” the narrator intones.
The parody was a good opportunity for Monoprix — a subsidiary of the retail giant Casino that specializes in relatively small-format stores located in city centers across France — to draw attention to a feature it launched many years ago. The parodywas “very well received,” reaching some 27.1 million people, the spokeswoman said.
But it nevertheless underscored how closely grocers are watching Amazon’s moves onto their turf. Amazon, which had been tinkering with various experiments in the field, last month signaled the size of its ambitions by agreeing to purchase Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion.
The Monoprix spokeswoman had a less jaunty tone when asked whether the French company sees Amazon as a challenge. “We do not comment on our competitors’ financial operations,” she wrote.