High-level market intelligence about the $18 billion expected to be invested over the next three years is a major focus of the March 2020 Automated Retail Tracker™ from PYMNTS, which serves as a bimonthly breakdown of developments in this rapidly growing business sector.
Companies are earmarking billions to create unattended retail (UR) experiences that optimize the combination of consumer products, connected commerce and physical space. It seems like yesterday that people were fumbling with self-checkout scanners in supermarkets. Now retail has the inverse issue: demand is outstripping supply for self-serve options and UR experiences.
“Americans are growing more comfortable shopping for food or electronics without the aid of another human,” the report states, continuing that, “a recent report by PYMNTS [shows] that the supply of cashier-less channels such as vending machines, self-service kiosks and even fully automated retail stores, lag significantly behind demand. PYMNTS’ recent “The Future Of Unattended Retail Report: Vending As The New Contextual Commerce” showed that 48.7 percent of consumers would like to use unattended retail channels, including fully automated retail locations, to shop for anything from electronics to cosmetics.”
‘Amazon Go’ Cashless
Call it trend or phenomenon, cashierless operations are popping up back by influential money. As we read in the March 2020 Automated Retail Tracker™, “eCommerce giant Amazon is among the companies tapping into unattended operations to keep time-strapped customers satisfied. It opened its first cashierless Amazon Go convenience shop in 2016 and is now upgrading the model, launching its first full, brick-and-mortar grocery store in Seattle, Washington’s Capitol Hill District. Shoppers will not have to worry about checkout lines at counters when visiting the Go Grocery stores, but will have access to a wider variety of products than can be found at regular Go stores — including those from Amazon’s Whole Foods unit and lower-priced items like Kellogg’s cereal.”
We also read about experiments by convenience store titan 7-Eleven, which has rolled out a string of cashierless locations near its Texas home base. The C-store giant is using the payment app Scan & Pay for the Texas tests, and it’s been experimenting it has had mobile payments on a development fast-track for the past year at least. And Amazon and 7-Eleven aren’t alone.
Out-of-stock situations are one of the hobgoblins of unattended retail, and the March 2020 Automated Retail Tracker™ details pilots of systems such as SmartSight from Illinois-based Zebra Technologies. It is an “… intelligent automation solution to help merchants better manage inventory and to reduce labor time and cost,” the report says. “Its solution employs technologies such as computer vision, machine learning (ML) and workflow automation to identify out-of-stock items, prisoning inconsistencies and planogram. Problems are relayed to the staff for correction. Reducing out-of-stock incidences significantly and minimizing price mislabeling has enhanced customer loyalty and increased average basket sizes, the company said.”
UR Making Me Laugh
Creativity rules in UR at the moment as retailers, consumer brands, tech firms and an assortment of players with skin in the retail game roll out new applications as quickly as they can be imagined. Ironically, it’s a time of community excitement and collaboration and even new levels of consumer engagement in an industry conceived around isolated machines.
Now, it’s downright fun.
“Funko, maker of collectible tiny figurines, is combing functionality and fun into its interactive touchscreen [kiosks],” the report states. “The company has a patent out on a vending machine that dispenses character toys called Snapsies. The diverse lineup of characters includes rock star unicorn Jeff and super athlete mountain goat Bille, and kids can fix them up in different outfits. Along with different ways to model their characters, the kids can also watch a video created by Funko Animation Studios. The machine dispenses a toy capsule for the kids to unwrap and play with. The machines are expected in retail stores this fall at Target.”