Cashierless technology is finally hinting at a mainstream rollout, with 7-Eleven’s announcement that it is piloting a cashierless store, taking a cue from Amazon and Walmart.
The move caps a flurry of tech activity from the 70,000-store chain, which has recently included a digital loyalty platform, on-demand delivery and mobile checkout.
The announcement came before Amazon’s grand opening of its first cashierless grocery store in Seattle. Called Amazon Go Grocery, it expands on the company’s 25 Amazon Go convenience stores. Consumers scan an app to enter, sensors track purchases and items are charged to their Amazon account.
Many other retailers are trying cashierless checkout systems, including Sam’s Club, Kroger and 50 Meijer stores in the Midwest. Meijer says its mobile app has been downloaded more than one million times. So while retailers are becoming more aggressive, the Meijer numbers are the first indication that consumers will use cashierless technology at scale.
“Most consumers feel the checkout process is a drag and a waste of time,” said IHL Retail Analyst Jerry Sheldon. “It enables [retailers] to focus more on customer interaction and helping shoppers.”
According to GPShopper, nearly half of U.S. internet users believe cashierless technology will improve the shopping experience.
“A core component of the new strategies being implemented by convenience stores focuses on the channels through which customers are reached and able to make purchases. From traditional point-of-sale systems and in-store digital kiosks to mobile orders and eCommerce websites, convenience stores are taking a major step into the world of omnichannel sales,” according to Retail Customer Experience. “By introducing frictionless payment systems that reduce the time needed to make purchases in-store and enabling customers to order ahead through mobile apps, convenience stores have positioned themselves as a convenient, go-to source for everyday needs like prepared meals, grocery items and more.”
The 7-Eleven solution is unique in that it can accommodate human cashiers and automated checkout in the same store. The company says a proprietary algorithm enables the store system to identify those customers and then promote assortments of products to them afterward. The process is similar to Amazon’s: Employees download an app, enter the store, shop and exit. A detailed receipt appears after the customer exits.
Over the last two years, 7-Eleven has rolled out the 7NOW delivery app and added various mobile payment options (Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay), and implemented augmented reality (AR) experiences into its app. Those checkout options are important, according to the PYMNTS Unattended Retail report. It found that many consumers who use unattended retail channels – from vending machines and self-serve kiosks to cashierless stores – say they do so because such solutions are faster (cited by 49.4 percent) and offer shorter lines (34.7 percent). Thirty-three percent say they use these channels because they like to take their time while shopping without talking to employees.
Privacy concerns about cashierless stores have arisen recently. Amazon uses location technology to track consumers’ movements, and uses cameras and sensors to generate and store consumer data.
“For retailers looking to follow in Amazon’s footsteps – and for Amazon, as it builds on its pilot program – several obstacles must be cleared before cashierless stores can be rolled out at scale,” says Albert Ahdoot, director of business development at Colocation America. “For starters, it’ll be necessary for brands to develop comprehensive data privacy and data security strategies. While consumers have generally been willing to trade information about their online shopping habits to receive better-tailored eCommerce experiences, cashierless stores’ merging of the physical with the digital may inspire some second thoughts.”
Given the size of the players adopting cashierless technology – from 7-Eleven to Walmart to Amazon – it’s more than likely that the security issues will be addressed and that scanning will be the future of retail.