Author(s): Raghu Gopal
The cashier-less society is coming. A growing number of companies are developing methods of grab-and-go shopping, enabling customers to simply take the items they want from store shelves and walk out without the need for manual checkout.
San Francisco appears to have become the testing ground for technologies supporting autonomous shopping, as a series of stores go live with the concept. For example, a start-up called Zippin recently opened a store there, beating Amazon Go to become the city's first till-free store. And in August, another autonomous retail start-up called Inokyo opened an automated store in Mountain View.
To make a purchase in such stores, customers first need to download an app and connect a payment method to get a QR code that they wave in front of a little sensor as they walk into the shop. Overhead cameras scan and monitor customers as they move around. Meanwhile, cameras placed on shelves track when customers pick up a product or put it back. The shop's artificial intelligence system can then assign the items to a customer's cart.
Last week, Standard Cognition, a company that labels itself as "an alternative to Amazon Go", opened a concept store dubbed Standard Market. It will sell a mix of food, cleaning supplies and general household and convenience store items. The 1,900 square-foot store will be a testing ground for the company's technology, which relies on cameras placed within the store to identify shoppers that walk in. Customers use a dedicated mobile app to check in, and cameras keep track of everything they carry and bills them as they exit.
With the Standard Cognition system in place, it seems that shoppers don't really need to change their shopping behaviour. They simply enter the store, select their items and leave, and are then automatically charged for items they take with them. For retailers, the platform promises to help cut labour costs, reduce inventory loss and enable better tracking of goods. Standard Cognition plans to sell its technology to other shops so they can offer the same experience that means customers don't need to carry cash or a credit card and can skip the checkout queue.
In other words, Standard Cognition is working to offer retailers the tools to compete against Amazon's grab-and-go threat. For any retailer following the Amazon effect, it's worth taking some actions to become part of what could be a new trend in the shopping experience. Amazon Go stores are still scarce, but the company has plans to scale up quickly: last month, it opened its third store in Seattle and has plans to open one in the San Francisco area soon.
It's worth noting the disruptive potential here. As more bricks-and-mortar stores adapt to this new shopping experience, there will be a need for workers with new skills, as traditional retail jobs fade away. Retailers and governments should prepare for this shift.