Haircuts by Alexa

Haircuts by Alexa

Hair salons go high-tech

Amazon is giving the high street a makeover, as it moves in on the beauty sector with its first high-tech hair salon in London. Clients will now be able to test out different hair styles and colours in an augmented reality mirror, browse magazines on tablets and scan QR codes to buy hair products – directly through Amazon. Transforming traditional hair salons with a digital experience is an experimental step for the tech giant, with critics even labelling it as an assault on the beauty industry. Time will tell whether this is genius, or if Amazon has missed the mark completely.

This is not the first venture Amazon has made into the high street. Last month its new till-less grocery store, Amazon Fresh, launched in London; the first store outside the US. Shoppers scan a smartphone app as they enter and are automatically billed as they leave – removing the need for till workers and arguably any human interaction. The technology has been described as ‘pioneering’ as it involves hundreds of cameras, sensors and software developed from artificial intelligence techniques. Amazon has offered to sell this technology to be installed in other stores, and we could be seeing it in Whole Foods very soon.

High street takeover

Amazon has been described as killing the high street with its vast internet-based enterprise selling anything from books to microwaves; allowing consumers to buy everything from one website, rather than go to separate stores. Now, with its futuristic shops and salons, Amazon continues to revolutionise the high street as we know it. No need for tills means stores can be smaller which could be good in areas of London where space is expensive. However, chatting to cashiers can be some people’s only form of daily human interaction – and Amazon removes this.

By being ‘the everything store’ and digitalising the traditional shopping experience, what will be left of the high street? And does this mean the end of quirky and unique stores in towns across the country if they cannot keep up with this technology? Amazon’s goal for the high street is to make shopping in Amazon more accessible – if Prime next day delivery is too long, you can go to an Amazon store and buy it now. Amazon’s decision to enter the high street has gathered negative feedback on social media, with some worried about how small businesses will cope.

Is this Amazon’s way of killing off any high street competition, by reinventing it to be its own? If so, why stop at hair salons? Opticians and cinemas all have the potential to be moulded into Amazon’s vision for the high street. Why battle it out with the leading brands when Amazon can create something others do not have – instantly placing itself in first position. With the news that Amazon is not paying any (or very little) tax, is this a price we are prepared to pay for getting everything in one place? If so, how do we fund the public services we need in the future? I guess the smaller stores are left with three options: pick up the slack from big tech, try and compete for your place on the high street, or you are out.

Alice Alexander

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