The cashierless checkout space has been on fire this year. Whether its new companies coming out of stealth, raising money or announcing partnerships, there has been no shortage of news coming out of the space.
Despite all of this activity in cashierless checkout, we are still very much in the early stages of the technology. If you want to experience the joy of simply walking into a store, grabbing what you want, and walking out while a system automatically charges your account, you need to live in a pretty major metropolis. Even then you have to seek such a store out, as autonomous stores are still very few and far between.
So for most of 2021, we’ve been in the ramping-up phase of cashierless checkout: debuts, funding, initial retail agreements. When will we get to the practical part, where cashierless checkout becomes mainstream? It’s a question I asked during two separate video chats with the CEOs of AiFi and Trigo.
AiFi is one of the startups that’s been making waves this year. It announced deals with European retail brands Wundermart and Żabka, and set up one of its pop-up, cashierless NanoStores at the Indianapolis 500 with Verizon that ran entirely on 5G. When asked for a timeline, AiFi CEO Steve Gu said, “We are on the cusp of this huge revolution.” He continued, “I think a decade is a very good number. Ten to fifteen years ago smart phones weren’t really a thing. [Cashierless checkout is] similar to smart phones, give it another ten years.”
Trigo was among the first players outside of Amazon to start building a cashierless checkout system. The company recently announced a partnership and strategic investment from German supermarket chain REWE. Trigo is also working with UK store Tesco, and Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal. I posed the same question to Michael Gabay, Trigo’s Co-Founder and CEO. He responded, “Now retailers are starting to plan their rollout. In two years there will be hundreds of stores. Next year you will find autonomous stores in any major city around the world.”
So we have two different timelines, but I think both are saying basically the same thing. We’ll continue to see more autonomous store openings around the world over the next couple of years, but we won’t reach a more mainstream point for a while. This is understandable, given the complexity of the technology, the new paradigm it creates for consumers and the rate at which large food retail chains often move. Besides, good things like cashierless checkout, come to those who wait.