Zippin announced today that it has opened its first cashierless store-within-a-store at a Azbuka Vkusa supermarket in Moscow. While this marks further international expansion for Zippin, the bigger story is that Azbuka Vkusa’s implementation could model a half-step into cashierless — and contactless — checkout for big grocery store chains.
Zippin is among the many startups making cashierless checkout for retail, which allow shoppers to walk into a store, grab what they want, and go, getting charged automatically as they exit. Zippin’s approach is similar to Amazon Go’s in that it uses a combination of both cameras and shelf sensors to monitor what people take. Last year, Zippin launched its pre-fab Cube, which has all the pieces and technology to make it easier for a store to open up a pop-up cashierless store-within-a-store.
But real estate in an urban environment like Moscow is at a premium, so rather than carving out floor space for a Zippin Cube, Azbuka Vkusa converted one of its existing aisles into a mini-store. The market cordoned off one end, installed cameras on the ceiling, retrofitted the existing shelves with sensors and installed a special QR code-scanning turnstile. Azbuka did all of the implementation with Zippin managing the process remotely.
What makes this interesting is that it’s a proof of concept for big grocery store chains looking to get into cashierless checkout. Grocery stores are like battleships; they can’t turn on a dime, and retrofitting an entire store takes a lot of time and resources, both of which are in short supply during this COVID-19 pandemic.
But the ability to carve out a small part of an existing store, retrofit existing shelves, and stock it with a mix of popular items people want to grab quickly could split the difference. This would allow bigger stores to start implementing cashierless without massive overhauls.
In addition to providing more convenience for shoppers, cashierless checkout is also contactless, an important word in the time of COVID-19. “Since [the] pandemic broke out, we’ve seen a clear increase in inbound inquiries,” Zippin CEO Krishna Motukri told me by phone this week, “The contactless aspect of it is a huge bonus, and probably the main driver of it now.”
Grocery stores are definitely investing in new ways to protect their frontline workers right now and a cashierless section could be an arrow in that particular quiver.
Zippin’s new Moscow location is the latest news in what has been a busy couple of weeks for the cashierless checkout space. Last week, Shopic raised $7.6 million for its tech solution, and this week, Standard Cognition acquired Italian startup, Checkout Technologies.
It’s a pretty safe bet that there is more news on the way as grocers and other retailers experiment and implement new ways of coaxing a nervous public back into their stores.