Empowering customers to purchase their favorite products entirely on their own has become a significant part of the shopping experience in the past decade. Autonomous check-out machines continue to improve and transform experiences that customers can have while they go shopping. This is incredibly important, now more than ever, as we continue to learn that customers pay for experiences, not products. Autonomous check-out systems provide faster, more personalized, and safer shopping experiences for customers–and being that it still feels high-tech is a bonus too. Let’s explore three forms of autonomous check-out capabilities: smart carts, scan-and-go, and biometric technology.
Being able to pay for your groceries while they are in your shopping cart without the hassle of waiting in line for a cashier has become the better way to shop in the past 2 years. Smart carts are bringing this convenience to many grocery stores by leveraging AI, ML, and the IoT in order to offer a vision-based checkout experience for customers. With smart carts, customers are able to watch how much the total of all their items in their cart will cost in real-time, providing a very customer-forward experience in regards to budgeting. As well, customers can receive sale alerts via the smart cart’s attached smart device (usually some form of smart tablet) while they’re shopping. The smart cart device itself can offer real-time product recommendations to customers which offers an additional plus for retailers because of an increase in sales. Similarly, retail managers are able to receive accurate and timely data related to their customers’ purchasing trends, and have an opportunity to allocate staff more efficiently.
Imagr, a New-Zealand based startup, prides itself on providing a very user friendly, innovative smart cart system for prominent global retailers. Imagr has partnered with H20, a multi-billion dollar Japanese retail conglomerate, to roll out their smart carts in-store. Not only does Imagr provide the hardware (e.g. the smart device and the camera and sensor cart fixture) but they also provide their own app, and an API framework to connect with the store’s in-store app if that’s the direction the store wants to take. Other startups like Shopic and Caper AI provide clip-on devices that can fit onto the handle of any standard shopping cart. Using AI, these devices will detect grocery items that are being placed into and/or taken out of the shopping cart in real-time.
Devices that are made for “scan-and-go” transactions are another form of autonomous check-out. Traditional self-checkout machines have made a strong presence in our daily shopping experiences in the past decade, but now we are experiencing the rise of more intelligent (thanks to AI) scan-and-go machines that can protect a store from customer theft, enhance the customer experience, and provide more hygienic shopping practices. Scan-and-go devices are also useful in partnership with customers’ mobile wallets, creating a truly touchless experience.
U.S. based startup, Aila, has deployed their version of a scan-and-go device for retailers to use. Unlike traditional self-checkout machines, Aila’s iOS compatible technology is a fraction of the size, allowing for retailers to have more devices while still maintaining social distancing; and as we know, more self-checkout devices means a faster self-checkout experience for customers. Since it is programmed via iPad, Aila provides an internal USBC hub so that retailers can hardwire any additional peripherals that their business needs (e.g. Star receipt printer.) Using Aila, a customer can easily scan their item(s), touch their credit card to the payment device, and “go.”
Unlike Aila, Mashgin, another U.S. based startup, does not use barcodes for customers to scan and instead uses computer vision to immediately recognize any object placed on the counter. Not only is this a pleasantly fast experience for customers, this can also prevent traditional self-checkout theft because the device itself recognizes the item just by looking at it.
Biometric autonomous check-out machines are also part of the brick-and-mortar revolution. Using a customer’s fingertip, face, or even palm to pay for a product is exactly what biometric technology is doing to transform the shopping experience. The contactless biometric market is projected to grow to $39.8 billion by 2027, and we can especially see this growth happening in the retail industry. Major companies like Amazon have implemented biometric technology for payment purposes and Mastercard has just recently unveiled a biometric checkout program too. Similar to a scan-and-go checkout process, using biometric technology also creates both a convenient experience for customers, and a safeguard against theft for store managers.
At Iterate.ai, we have used biometric technology to provide a global convenience store leader, Circle K, an autonomous self-checkout experience via our low-code platform, Interplay®. In just 4 weeks, we were able to introduce a palm-reading scanner at the checkout counter. Registered members hold their hand for a few seconds over the scanner to complete their purchase, it really is that easy. Not only did this solve for hygienic concerns at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is simply faster and safer for both customers and store managers.
There were many predictions of the fall of brick-and-mortar retailers due to the COVID pandemic, and although brick-and-mortar stores were not obliterated entirely, it is fair to note that the future of retail is a digital one. With that being said, integrating or even fully replacing traditional check-out processes with autonomous ones is what will keep the in-store shopping experience relevant, competitive, and desirable. We recommend retailers to consider using autonomous technology to support the success of their companies and we can assist with the consultation and creation of this technology using our low-code platform, Interplay. To learn more, please connect with us.
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