your competitors evolve and you don’t more often than not that spells
trouble. Here is why, consumers over acknowledge
that they like change that is slow. What they do like even more than change is ‘discovery’
according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice
went on to say, “customer migration occurs when one company introduces a flavor,
technology, or messaging that is an interesting twist on what is familiar not
something that is completely different. Are you looking a customer ahead?”
consider this familiar story, about five years ago, a new competitor began
causing a stir in the convenience channel. Amazon Inc., the company that went
from online bookseller to e-commerce giant, started testing a new physical
store format that took direct aim at convenience stores: Amazon Go.
that first locations debuted in January 2018 in Amazon's hometown of Seattle
and featured the company's Just Walk Out technology, which leverages a
combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to enable
shoppers to shop the store, pick out what they want, but skip the traditional
concerns among convenience store operators swirled. Some worried the
contactless shopping experience would draw customers away from the corner
store, while others raised doubts that the concept would ever catch on.
fast forward to today, and while the e-commerce giant is reevaluating some
Amazon Go locations, the company remains committed to the technology. And in
what may be a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," c-store
chains are now embracing contactless shopping in various forms — from
self-checkout kiosks to checkout-free solutions.
attendees of the recent NATSO Connect 2023 event in Dallas were
asked to define "convenience" as part of a poll. Many said
self-checkout springs to mind. It's no surprise then that the service is
currently among the top items for technology spending. Here is more from an industry
the conference, Onvo Chief Operating Officer Gerald Danniel spoke about how the
travel center operator's location in Dorrance, Pa., embraces technology inside
and outside the store. Scranton, Pa.-based Onvo has installed card readers at
all the fuel dispensers and features self-checkout kiosks inside the store, as
well as at its quick-service offering, Burger King. Onvo plans to invest
heavily in self-checkout and mobile app pay solutions, he said.
Register, president of Port Fuel Center in Savannah, Ga., told the NATSO
Connect audience that the one-year-old travel center offers a mix of
self-checkout and manned checkout counters. The retailer is also implementing
handheld point-of-sale options — what Register referred to as the
centers are not the only players in the industry embracing checkout options.
Franklin, Tenn.-based MAPCO opened its first checkout-free location in December. Powered
by Grabango, the checkout-free store in Brentwood, Tenn., allows shoppers to
check out via the Grabango app. The experience is fully contactless; shoppers
select the items they want and are billed through the app. There's no need for
also recently entered a partnership with Grabango and earlier this year, its
Amoco brand went live with the technology
at two Coen Market-owned sites in Pennsylvania. BP had previously tapped
Grabango to retrofit several of its ampm stores last year.
other changes over the past three years, many industry players point to
consumer demand for contactless shopping experiences driven by the COVID-19
pandemic as the key reason retailers are exploring new checkout options. That's
true in a way.
the pandemic, contactless was certainly an appealing aspect of the various
checkout-free solutions emerging, but several other benefits are contributing
to their staying power.
all of us have seen, contactless continues to be appealing because it is fast
and it's better that everyone isn't touching our products when we are checking
out and, of course, it is better that we are not waiting in line anymore,
whether the pandemic is here or not," said Andrew Radlow, chief revenue
officer at Berkeley, Calif.-based Grabango.
Beard, senior marketing and customer experience manager for Standard AI, agrees
that the contactless attribute of these new checkout-free technologies is not
what is driving adoption today. "The big picture is that we're in the
midst of a shift toward self-service at the moment of checkout," he
explained. "It began prior to the pandemic — especially with grocers and
big-box retailers — and now we're seeing it playing out in convenience
reasons are simple, according to Beard. For retailers, rising wages and cost
pressures mean it's no longer economical to have employees scanning barcodes
all day; they need to be redeployed to more productive tasks. For customers,
the checkout queue was always a source of frustration, so when given options,
many began gravitating toward the ones offering the most convenience.
success or failure of contactless and self-service technologies used by
retailers ultimately hinges on their underlying motivations, according to Sam
Vise, cofounder and CEO of Toronto-based Optimum Retailing, a provider of
in-store experience management solutions.
who adopt self-service technology as a means to supplement and enhance their
customer experience efforts are the ones largely seeing success," Vise
said. "On the other hand, when self-service technology is used as an
attempt to completely replace human labor, brands often see failure. The goal
with any technology implementation in brick-and-mortar stores lies in
evaluating how it will improve the overall shopping experience for their
specific target audiences."
the various contactless shopping options available in the market these days
takes some knowledge of the terms and differences among the varying solutions.
There's been increased market demand for autonomous technology, otherwise known
as frictionless, Beard noted. Standard AI is a startup in autonomous retail. It
develops artificial intelligence that tracks the movement of products and
shoppers throughout the entire store, enabling a range of solutions from
autonomous checkout — where customers simply exit without getting in line to
pay — to real-time business intelligence, operational assistance and more.
have experienced significant interest in autonomous retail technology.
Autonomous retail tech has proven especially effective at solving longstanding
problems in settings like college campus convenience stores and micro
markets," he said.
February, Standard AI reached an agreement to acquire self-checkout solutions
provider Skip. With this move, Standard AI plans to further accelerate the
adoption of autonomous retail by giving retailers the option to use their
self-checkout hardware as the point of interface.
cautions against assuming all checkout-free experiences and vendors are the
same. "We have been saying for years that there are big differences to the
approach," he said. "I think the industry got ahead of themselves and
started deploying artificial intelligence and immediately targeting a
cashierless experience. People confuse cashierless with checkout-free. That is
Grabango as a hybrid solution, he said the company offers payment choice.
"Our solution allows you to use the same checkout experience you normally
had or, if you are short on time and appreciate convenience, you can just tap
your app, tap your credit card or use Google Pay or Apple Pay, and be out in
one second," he explained. "That doesn't mean you ignore the human
needs in the store. Whether you are a store operator or a shopper, you still
need to have proof of age verified for age-restricted products [and] need to
help customers looking for a product."”
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