Unattended Payments Surge as Most U.S. Consumers Favor Self-Service Kiosks Over Staffed Checkouts

The unattended market, accounting for over $31 billion in the United States alone, is transforming the convenience commerce landscape and revolutionizing payment experiences in various settings such as offices, hotels, and universities.

This trend has gained stronger momentum due to stringent health measures enacted during and post-pandemic times, amplifying the reliance on unattended payments for secure, contactless payment experiences, as detailed in the latest Digital Payments Tracker® Series report by PYMNTS Intelligence entitled “Unattended: The Payments Technology Shifting the Future of Commerce.” 

Self-service kiosks are a prime example of the strong demand for unattended payments. Per the report, 84% of U.S. consumers, including Generation Z, millennials, Gen Xers and even baby boomers, have embraced self-service kiosks, with 66% even expressing a preference for them over staffed checkouts. Additionally, 36% of consumers specifically seek smarter unattended payment alternatives.

As a result, retail businesses are now responding to the demand for more and better self-service options, with some firms harnessing both old and new technologies to enhance unattended payments. 

For instance, radio frequency identification (RFID), initially used for inventory management, is now integrated into the checkout process, automating price calculations and reducing checkout times by half, the report noted. Biometric solutions, such as Amazon One, which allows payment using palm recognition, have also gained popularity, with over 3 million uses already recorded since its launch last November.

Unattended payment systems extend beyond retail environments; they are infiltrating diverse industries where lengthy checkout queues deter customers and where individuals seek greater autonomy in their transactions.

In August, global payments company Payroc teamed up with Ingenico, a point-of-sale payment service provider, to introduce the Ingenico Self/3000, an unattended payment device aimed at meeting growing demand in the self-service market.

As PYMNTS reported at the time, the Self/3000 can be integrated into diverse industries like vending, car washes, and electric vehicle charging and supports various payment modes such as contactless, magstripe, and EMV functionalities. 

As the report further highlighted, restaurants are also exploring the potential of QR codes to improve dining experiences, allowing customers to conveniently pay at the table by scanning a QR code. Fast-food chains like Shake Shack have also embraced self-service ordering kiosks, resulting in increased sales and an enhanced consumer experience.

Furthermore, unattended payments have transformed kiosks into micro-markets, providing automated and contactless shopping and payment experiences in various settings, including the workplace. Even in the hospitality industry, hotels like Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs have introduced self-service kiosks to provide guests with a fast and convenient check-in experience, the report further noted. 

Unattended Payments Go to School

Beyond the corporate world and hospitality sector, universities and educational institutions have also embraced micro-market kiosks with unattended payment systems. Companies like USConnect and Canteen have introduced these kiosks on campuses, providing students with convenient access to a wide array of snacks and meal options between classes, all accessible through intuitive, user-friendly interfaces.

In essence, this widespread shift towards unattended payments isn’t merely a trend; it mirrors consumer desires for efficiency, convenience and contactless transactions across sectors. The appeal lies in the autonomy and accessibility they offer, empowering users to make purchases on their own terms, anytime and anywhere. 

Against this backdrop, businesses that cling to traditional payment methods risk falling behind in terms of efficiency gains, enhanced customer satisfaction, and increased revenue potential. 

Moreover, with new use cases and innovations such as electric vehicle charging stations and smart cities expected to propel the unattended market to a staggering $129 billion globally by 2030, businesses are standing at the precipice of an immense opportunity. 

For merchants looking to stay ahead of the curve, this evolution compels them to swiftly adapt and proffer advanced solutions that align with the ever-evolving needs of their clientele.