What the heck is happening with cashierless checkout right now? To put it mildly, a lot.
There has been a steady stream of news in recent months about startups creating new grab-and-go shopping experiences where consumers can walk into a store, take what they want, then simply leave. These systems automatically charge customers for their items as they exist the store without those people having to visit an actual cashier.
Things really turned up in the cashierless space yesterday when AiFi announced a new partnership with Wundermart to create up to 1,000 new unattended locations. But we weren’t done yet because right after that story went up, Standard Cognition announced that it had raised a $150 million Series C round of funding and plans to open 50,000 checkout free stores over the next five years.
This however, was just the latest news. The whole cashierless checkout space has been simmering with activity for quite some time. Consider these other headlines from just the past three months:
- Age, Location, Stickiness: Grabango Releases Stats About its Cashierless Checkout
- Zippin Launches Cashierless Checkout Store in Yokohama Techno Tower Hotel
- Berlin: Nomitri Moves Cashierless Checkout to Your Cart-Mounted Smartphone
- Imagr Pushes its Smart Cart Cashierless Checkout to the APAC Region
- Cashierless Checkout Startup Trigo Raises $60M
- AiFi’s Cashierless Checkout Powers New 4,000 Sq. Ft. Store in Shanghai
Why is all this happening right now? To find out, we hosted a Clubhouse chat yesterday with Trinh Le-Fiedler, Founder and CEO of Nomitri; Krishna Motokuri, Co-Founder and CEO of Zippin; and Lindon Gao, Co-Founder and CEO of Caper.
The panel agreed that one of the factors pushing the accelerated adoption of cashierless checkout is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Cashierless checkout helps minimize human-to-human interaction. This helps protect both consumers and a store’s staff because you don’t have one cashier interacting with a bunch of different strangers throughout the day. Plus, the elimination of checkout lines also means that you have fewer customers congregating with one another.
In addition to the pandemic, competitive forces are also at play. As Gao pointed out, Amazon has rolled out services like Amazon Go stores and its own Dash smart carts. This has spurred other retailers into more examination and exploration of adopting their own cashierless checkout capabilities.
But, despite all the recent news about cashierless checkout, the concept is still a ways away from mainstream adoption. Fiedler, whose company is among the newest of the cashierless startups, noted that it’s much easier for a small- or medium-sized retailer to adopt new cashierless options because they aren’t weighed down by legacy IT systems.
For his part, Motokuri predicted that over the next two years most of the convenience-style shopping people do at stadiums or airports will be via cashierless stores. Larger convenience stores will need three to four years before they commit to cashierless technology.
Gao thinks that cashierless checkout needs to get “dirt cheap” before we see mainstream adoption. By that he meant the hardware, software and service needs to become much more inexpensive, and the ongoing operational costs need to be dirt cheap for the retailer as well.
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