Amazon kicked off the cashierless checkout craze a year ago with its Amazon Go stores. Now a number of cashierless players are coming to market, each with their own solution. Amazon uses a combination of cameras and sensors to automatically keep track of what you buy, while Grabango uses lots of small cameras, and Caper employs a smart shopping cart.
Skip is another entrant in the increasingly crowded field of startups looking to retrofit existing retail outlets with cashierless checkout systems. But Skip’s approach is decidedly less tech intensive. However, this lack of high-end installation could be what gives it an edge in the market. (Hat tip to The Shelby Report for bringing Skip to our attention.)
The Skip checkout system has three parts: a mobile app for the consumer, an app for the store clerk and a cloud cam. Once the shopper downloads the Skip app, they use it to scan and pay for items they are taking. As a shopper scans items, the store clerk’s app gets a notification and a running tally of the items the shopper is taking. This helps the clerk know what is being paid for and helps prevent people from saying they are just picking up milk, but walking out with an armful of goodies.
The Cloud Cam is a wall-mounted camera and screen installed above the store’s entrance that displays the username of the shopper and the number of items they paid for. This display shows the clerk and other shoppers that the person leaving isn’t stealing, and acts as another theft deterrent by letting shoppers know that they are on camera.
If Skip’s approach to cashierless checkout sounds familiar, that’s because 7-11 launched a similar scan-and-go system last year. Convenience stores like 7-11 are actually Skip’s main target, with the company saying the convenience segment has the largest footprint for growth. Skip says its solution will be in roughly 150 convenience stores and 83 grocery stores by the end of this month.
Skip generates revenue through a Saas model, charging stores on a sliding scale anywhere between $15 and $50 a month. The company says it’s seeing ten percent month over month growth.
Like with any new technology, Skip’s solution has pros and cons. On the plus side, there’s really no infrastructure for stores to implement other than some software and the cloud cam, so any store could be easily retrofitted. Additionally, Skip’s system allows existing checkout systems to remain in place, so stores can continue to take cash or credit cards.
Downsides seem to be that the technology still relies on the clerks to help monitor what people are buying. That’s easy when there are one or two people in the store, but it seems like a dozen or more shoppers could overwhelm a lone clerk. Additionally, there are some privacy considerations that don’t seem to be fully thought out. The Cloud Cam displays the username of the person as they exit the store, but people could be using their real name which would then get flashed on a screen for everyone to see.
Right now Skip is available id different regional chains, mostly in Western states, though that will change quickly over the coming months as stores across the country come out of testing and go live. Skip itself is based in Salt Lake City, UT and has roughly 15 employees. The company raised roughly $5 million in seed funding two years ago.
The cashierless tech space may be crowded, but Skip’s low-fi approach and convenience store targeting might be enough to get retailers to check it out.