Cashierless technology like Amazon Go is becoming increasingly commonplace in the retail world, driven by the ongoing effects of the pandemic and consumer demand for convenience and improved in-store experience.
In fact, PYMNTS has argued in a recent report that cashierless checkout is retail’s next “new normal,” as two-thirds of retailers (66%) are investing greater resources in the technology to streamline their payment and checkout options.
IKI is one such example. Earlier this month, the retailer, one of the biggest supermarket chains in Lithuania with nearly 240 stores, opened its fourth IKI Express 24/7 cashierless convenience store in the country’s capital city of Vilnius, using technology from AI-driven retail technology startup Pixevia.
Commenting on the partnership in a recent interview with PYMNTS, Pixevia CEO Mindaugas Eglinskas said the startup is helping retailers like IKI pioneer new aspects of cashierless and cashless shopping with its proprietary technology that enables customers to be in and out of a fully autonomous store in minutes.
“When the customer enters the store, cameras and sensors detect all items taken from the shelf, so the customer doesn’t have to scan anything,” Eglinskas explained. “All they have to do is just tap their bank card and exit the store when they’re done shopping.”
This artificial intelligence (AI)-driven approach helps customers avoid queues, one of the aspects of shopping that is the least appealing in this age of customer convenience, he added.
For retailers, the deployment of AI-powered autonomous shopping technology helps to keep a better tab on operations, he noted further, as AI predicts the need for goods and orders and automatically alerts employees when on-shelf availability is running low. That, and the ability to solve retail’s ongoing labor shortage and “accomplish more with less staff” is why autonomous shopping is fast gaining traction.
But bringing cashierless technology to life is not easy, Eglinskas acknowledged, telling PYMNTS that the main challenge was to replicate the same store layout of a regular IKI Express 24/7 convenience store to offer customers a frictionless shopping experience.
“Our goal was not to change anything. We were given the layout of a regular store and we had to make this layout work with our technology and that is not easy to do,” he said, pointing to how complex convenience stores can be due to the broad range of available products, from ready-to-eat snacks to refrigerated drinks, which are all packed in a very small space.
Grocers have long contended with in-store theft. And as checkout systems go autonomous, there’s a risk that the scope of that threat could grow, especially with no cashiers in sight.
Eglinskas is of a different view, however, adding that unmanned, autonomous stores have an edge over traditional retail stores and have so far recorded far lower rates of stolen goods. “It’s way more difficult to steal from an AI-driven store,” he noted, pointing to how sophisticated cashierless tech can detect suspicious gestures or movements much faster than human staff ever could.
But despite the benefits that cashierless technology offers both customers and retailers alike, he said the innovation still needs humans to function, an assertion that is in line with findings from the PYMNTS retail report, which indicated the need to balance traditional and self-checkout lanes to suit shopper preferences.
Moving forward, he said bringing down the cost of cashierless hardware will play a key role in driving adoption, especially among larger retailers, which are more efficient and require the building of a stronger business case to win them over.
Another common aspect of cashierless shopping that needs to go is the requirement to download apps, he pointed out, an approach Pixevia has previously tested but quickly realized was a turn-off for customers due to the friction it introduces in the shopping experience.
“In some stores if a customer wants to buy a bottle of Coke or sandwich, they have to download an app and enter their address and card details. This approach doesn’t work at all,” he said, adding that it’s easy to lose customers who are in a hurry and are only looking to grab a few items.
Finally, as the company works to increase its client base in Europe and in the U.S., Eglinskas said data gathered from its autonomous stores will be critical in learning more about customer shopping habits and improving the checkout experience to make more efficient, real-time in-store decisions.
“Data can make the store way better from an assortment perspective and also from a general customer perspective for the shoppers,” he said.
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