Self-checkout implementation in retail is growing year-on-year. The technology is continuously evolving to reduce staff interventions and inventory shrinkage, whilst improving customer experience and throughput. So, why are the likes of Amazon Go's 'Just Walk Out' shopping experience failing to take off?
The evolution of self-checkout technology
Self-checkout technology is evolving to improve the shopper experience, reduce staff interventions, reduce shrinkage, and improve throughput.
Self-checkout systems are in demand among retailers, and most advocates of its technology say it leads to higher sales and basket sizes because customers can complete their shopping experience far quicker.
New instore technologies are continuously being developed to create smoother payment options, minimise theft, identify weight-based items such as grocery produce more accurately, and to verify age without the need for human assistance.
Industry insiders expect that self-checkout will eventually become the norm, and the global self-checkout system market is expected to nearly double to $5.9 billion by 2026.
Retailers are accelerating the installation of self-checkout systems to secure their customer base with digital innovation that provides the speed and convenience they experienced and became accustomed to in the aftermath of the pandemic.
One could argue that the ultimate level of speed and convenience is eliminating the checkout process entirely.
Although, according to Forrester research, 72% of retail sales in the U.S. will still occur within brick-and-mortar stores because customers want to interact with a product before buying, or don’t want to wait for delivery.
Self-checkout and instore automation provides both speed and convenience for shoppers who prioritise those factors when it comes to retail experience.
However, customer reaction to this technology can be mixed, as some customers may find it complicated, frustrating, and untrustworthy. Retailers are treading lightly, assessing the general consensus of consumer opinions and whether it’s worth the likely significant investment.
The future of self-checkout will likely see an evolution of new technology with a significant emphasis on speed of deployment and cost for retailers.
Amazon hits pause on Amazon Go
With evolved AI tech and an arsenal of sensor arrays at their disposal, retailers can choose to implement automated checkout processes that allows customers to shop more conveniently.
Amazon has taken that emphasis on convenience to the next level with Amazon Go Grocery model stores powered by Just Walk Out - a checkout process that merges computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.
The store’s abundance of cameras and IoT sensors detect when a customer has removed an item off the shelf and placed it into their cart/basket. Once the customer leaves the store, the system charges their credit card for the items they left with.
This requires not only a deep understanding of what the guest has placed into their cart but also where items are located in the store. If an item moves away from its shelf, the system must still be able to keep track of its store inventory in real-time.
Amazon Go, the pinnacle of convenience stores, hasn't exactly taken the high-streets of the world by storm. The retail giant has announced plans to close a number of Amazon Fresh grocery & Amazon Go convenience stores, and delay new openings. According to numerous critics, the focus on tech rather than the retail experience has deterred shoppers.
A 'Just Walk Out' shopping experience sounds revolutionary, and one would assume it would appeal to modern consumers and retailers alike. It sounds especially desirable for Amazon's fellow digital retailers who are dipping their toes into the waters of physical retail - fewer employees, a quick checkout journey for customers, and fewer human errors sounds like a desirable venture.
However, it has failed to gain the trust of the consumer, and with Amazon temporarily pulling the plug on new Go stores, it appears that the future of these store concepts are in doubt.
Why embark on such a risky and difficult business venture that has a need for highly advanced AI technology if customers don't trust it?
Retailers will likely keep an eye on what Amazon do to try and correct the course of their Go & Fresh store models.