Retail

Unattended Retail, Mobile Kiosk-Style

Kiosk

With the opening of Amazon Go in Seattle in January, Amazon arguably popularized the cashierless store concept. Since then, the eCommerce retailer has brought the store to other locations in the city and Chicago as well as one location on the way in Lower Manhattan. The company is also reportedly looking to open 3,000 stores in the future and eyeing a new venue for the concept.

While Amazon Go may have made consumers aware of cashierless checkout (or at least the popular notion of it), a similar idea is also being applied to unattended retail on a smaller scale. That’s the concept behind companies like DeepMagic, which provide a platform for retailers to offer their customers grab-and-go transactions through kiosks.

DeepMagic Co-Founder and CEO Bernd Schoner says that his company is enabling a similar transaction experience to Amazon Go. But it has a different focus. That is, the company doesn’t set up a cashierless checkout system to power an entire brick-and-mortar store. Instead, the company has brought its unattended retail technology to a kiosk, which Schoner said its pretty much the smallest walk-in retail environment that it could create.

By keeping its kiosk relatively small in size, Schoner said DeepMagic has the opportunity to bring the concept to a variety of places. More specifically, he envisions bringing the kiosks to venues where retail opportunities or stores typically don’t exist: “Places where people live or work,” Schoner told PYMNTS.com in an interview. The larger aim, he said, is to be a piece of the infrastructure that merchants can operate in those environments.

The Kiosk

DeepMagic’s kiosks are fully enclosed and are accessible to customers through an automated door. With such a setup, Schoner’s system is able to protect the merchandise inside of the kiosks from people who are not authorized to shop. To gain access to the space and become authorized, a consumer can swipe her credit card or scan a quick-response (QR) code generated by a mobile app.

Once a shopper enters the kiosk, she can browse the products on the shelf inside and take the items that she wishes to purchase using computer vision through sophisticated cameras. If she decides not to buy an item, she can put it back on the shelf. To complete the checkout process, she can hit the exit button and walk out the door. Her credit card is then charged for what she takes from the store and a receipt is sent to her by email.

When it comes to the kinds of items that could work for his kiosks, Schoner said he is fairly product agnostic. But Schoner thinks of the sweet spot as higher-value items because of the security that his kiosk offers. He said that he is not shy about putting a $500 handbag in one of his stores. On the other end, he thinks that the kiosks could store upscale lunch foods like sandwiches at an $8 price point.

The Market

Schoner doesn’t see his kiosks operating in all environments, as the spaces aren’t simply boxes that stores snacks or sodas. “We’re not your standard vending machine at a gas station,” Schoner said, noting that those machines could be susceptible to vandalism. Instead, he is looking to venues that have some physical security such as a hotel lobby. He also said the technology could be deployed in office spaces.

Overall, Schoner is looking at many models with an eye toward serving a particular audience that needs a particular product in a particular place. In one example use case, he cited a kiosk that could sell workout clothes at the gym. He also said the kiosk could work as a store-within-a-store, where a retailer basically allows another merchant into its space because it generates foot traffic. (The suggestion comes as news surfaced that Kroger and Walgreens teamed up to put Kroger Express locations inside of Walgreens pharmacies.)

Will consumers trade the checkout line for cashierless kiosks located in stores, hotels and offices? The latest innovations suggest that such technology could entice shoppers to make payments in small venues — and not just more traditional retail environments such as entire brick-and-mortar stores.

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