Going cashierless in 2020

Daniel Ackers, Senior Account Manager for retail at Cloud Technology Solutions, looks at the future of cashierless stores and the technology underpinning them.

Since the well-known online marketplace first launched its cashierless store in 2016, the concept has piqued the interest of many UK retailers with two major supermarket chains announcing their own trials. It’s unlikely they’ll be alone in offering a cashierless experience to customers in the coming years.

These stores offer added convenience and a new shopping experience for customers. Meanwhile, at a time when the supermarket retail sector is facing huge levels of demand amid the coronavirus lockdown, cashierless stores may provide an added level of protection as part of social distancing.

Undoubtedly, technology requirements represent the biggest challenges for retailers seeking to adopt a cashierless model. Simply knowing where to start is a barrier for many in itself.

The technology that allows shoppers to simply walk into a store, ‘tap in’ using their phone, collect what they need and be charged automatically via an online account appears straightforward.

However, this simplicity is backed up by a wealth of complex systems and data. It relies on all of the biggest technological developments of the last ten years coming together into one harmonious system.

The requirements can, however, be quite neatly broken down into in-store technology and central systems. Stores themselves have to be fitted with sensors and cameras that cover every square metre to monitor what shoppers are picking up from the shelves and, crucially, what they’re placing back. By coupling the sensors with IoT technology, the system makes sure each item is automatically scanned once placed into a basket. This helps understand what shoppers are buying as accurately as a traditional check-out would.

Centrally, two key systems need to be in place. Firstly, AI can track the data coming in from stores around the country, and analyse billing, inventory as well as even particular buying patterns as a result of local events or changes in weather. This allows retailers to be more agile in replenishing stock and make predictions about what good stores will need at different times of day. And lastly, cloud infrastructure that is scalable and can store vast amounts of different data is perhaps the most vital step retailers need to take.

As well as technology requirements, retailers also need to think about how their own cashierless stores work for customers.  While adopting a cashierless store model might necessitate significant change for retailers, their investment in trialling these systems shows that this is not stopping them exploring the possibility. If retailers can iron out the wrinkles and make the most of the innovative technology available, it might not be long until we see cashierless stores’ full adoption across the UK.

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