Imagine it is your groceries day out. You pick up your long list of things and head out for the store. After shopping for all your things which by the way is already exhausting, you happen to find a queue longer than the wall of China waiting at the reception counter. I just quoted a typical shopping experience of any other shopper who’s happier to find an empty cash counter than the 50% sale.
Retailing has come a long way from just trading things in a barter system or for money to “having a shopping experience”. We now have acres of land converted into malls and stores which offer you that experience.
You have food courts, playing arenas for kids, baby crashes all under one roof so that you make the most of your shopping spree. But the one thing every shopper dreads is the never-ending queue on the cash register. That is why retail stores, over the decades have launched self-checkout systems to save you the hassle of waiting for your turn to pay.
We will be exploring the pros and cons of autonomous stores and how will it transform the retail business in this article. Read on to find out more.
What are Autonomous stores
Autonomous stores are cashier-less stores where there is no human presence required for checking you out of the store. These stores have self-checkout options where you pick up the stuff you require, bill them yourself, pay, and leave. That means no long queues or wastage of time.
All the items that you have picked are added to your cart, just as in case of an online order, and you have to pay through store crafted app and set out. The items that are added by mistake can be sorted out too without making you pay for it.
How Aifi has Transformed Retail experience
Aifi is a company that provides software to retailers to open cashier-free stores, where the purchases are tracked by artificial intelligence technology. Aifi sells software to third parties for a seamless shopping experience.
The company uses a series of cameras to track the movement made by the customer such as lifting or putting down a product on the store shelf and automatically updates the virtual basket of the customer. Aifi sends a digital receipt once the customer leaves the store.
In case the customer prefers using the cashier-less system, the user has to simply scan the credit card or their Aifi app on their way out. It provides other payment solutions such as kiosks set up in nearby stores.
Aifi just launched the largest autonomous retail store in Shanghai, China. Unlike other autonomous stores, the 40000 square foot store uses only a camera series and refrains from using weight sensor shelves which has resulted in slaying their investments by 60%.
Aifi can be installed into new and existing retail stores. Aifi CEO Steve GU believes that Aifi can revolutionize the retail autonomous sector. "People can literally just walk into a shop, grab stuff, and then leave," he added. Adding Aifi to retail stores can result in needing few staff people or engaging the same staff in other value-added services.
Top 5 Autonomous stores in the world
Amazon has launched its first offline store called Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh which lets you pick up items and leave without queuing or checking out. The payment is later made through the Amazon Go app.
So far, it has opened twenty-six Amazon Go stores and is well intended to open thousands more worldwide.
Nike’s Speed Shop
Nike opened a flagship store in 2018 calling it the “House of Nike Innovation 000”. As the name suggests, it isn’t your regular retail store. The ‘Speed Shop’ is a six floor customization studio with instant check-out points.
This allows customers to book shoes-trial online to try on in the store. Customers arrive through a dedicated entrance to find a locker with their name on it, which can be unlocked through their smartphones.
The shoes in question can be bought without even talking to anyone through mobile checkouts. No queues, no waiting. The ultimate shopping experience.
Burberry’s Social Retail store
Burberry opened its first social retail store in July 2020 in China’s tech hub Shenzhen. Powered by Tencent technology, it hopes to redefine the expectations of luxury retail. It provides personalized experience through a dedicated WeChat app and can share them with their communities.
The mini program on the WeChat app lets customers book appointments, learn more about certain products, and their UGC (user-generated content) accumulate a social virtual currency. This virtual currency converts into a gamified experience as shoppers continue their shopping throughout the store.
Hema’s QR codes
The Chinese e-commerce giant opened its first Hema’s store in 2016. The store aims at combining elements of online and offline shopping to create the ultimate shopping experience. Alibaba has opened over 35 new retail stores with an aim to combine offline and online retailing.
Customers use the Hema’s app to scan barcodes throughout the store to find product information and recipe ideas. The stores also provide deliveries of online orders. They have employees roaming around the stores filling in contents of online orders. Customers pay through their accounts on Taobao or Alipay. At select Hema stores, customers can make payments at kiosks using facial recognition.
Kroger’s digital Price tags
Kroger’s is rolling out new technologies to improve the buying experience. The technology helps customers by communicating with their smartphones. It uses emoji as they walk up and down the shopping aisles giving them clear choices in a pool of identical products.
Crafted along with Microsoft in 2019, this technology displays nutritional information, pricing, video ads and coupons. Customers scan their items using their smartphones and these items get added in the cart.
Besides hassle free shopping, Kroger's and Microsoft aims at making this a sustainable option too. The technology runs on renewable energy and helps Kroger's cut down over head lighting and therefore reduce energy costs.
How does Amazon go store work?
Amazon go store uses a combination of ceiling-mounted cameras and shelf-weight sensors to automatically track customers and items as they move around a store.
How do you pay at Amazon Go store?
Amazon Go store accepts all types of credit and debit cards.
Where is Amazon Go available?
There are currently 26 Amazon Go stores located in four cities — New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle.
2020 has accelerated the contactless shopping trend and rightfully so. Retailers continue to explore more of these innovative shopping ideas to bring back the offline footprint. Most of the traditional brick-and-mortar stores are redefining their shopping arenas to provide the ultimate shopping experience.
While autonomous stores are trending since decades, there are still a few things that they haven't gotten right. They are prone to thefts and require manual overrides. Furthermore, many surveys have found that customers defraud the systems by under scanning or item swapping.
Some retail stores have gone back to traditional checkouts since the customers started leaving loaded carts in the store, frustrated at the self-checkout machines.
The technology may completely replace human intervention in the up coming high tech retail stores. But with parallel challenges, this would be lest recommended. Instead companies could deploy their staff more flexibly and use them for other value added services.
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