Retailers Expand Deployment of Cashierless Shopping

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Cashierless systems leverage a suite of technologies including sensors, image analysis, and AI to make transactions frictionless.

Grab and go shopping is on the rise. Retailers are using sensors, image analysis, and artificial intelligence to identify and bill for items customers place in a cart or take off a shelf and carry out. Those items are added to that customer’s bill. The customer does not have to go through a check out line, thus enabling cashierless shopping.

It is the next evolutionary step in the transition from traditional cashiers and then self-checkout. The approach is being embraced by Amazon. It recently announced the arrival of its “Just Walk Out” concept in two store locations, one in Washington D.C. and one in Sherman Oaks, California. The stores will allow consumers to pick up items and simply leave the store without the frustration of checking out.

Cashierless saves time with advanced tech

The cashierless systems leverage a suite of technology to make these types of frictionless transactions happen. The store employs a combination of computer vision and strategically placed sensors, all powered by artificial intelligence. Customers arrive, sign into the companion app, and then gather needed items. Then, they simply leave, and AI identifies the customer and the items, charging purchases to a secure account.

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Amazon has already deployed this technology in its own locations, but it recently signed agreements to license the technology to third-party retailers. It’s part of a larger trend in retail/grocery to create smart, customer-friendly experiences that remove common frustrations.

At the Whole Foods locations, customers can choose to use the app or using a handprint scanner. They can also insert a debit card associated with their Amazon account to sign in.

Some excited; others, not so much

While many are excited to see the deployment of these systems in more than just Amazon locations, others worry that they’ll replace human jobs at a time when unemployment is creeping back up. Amazon believes that the system will certainly replace cashier positions but will, in turn, open up opportunities for other positions.

Amazon also expects that these systems will free up employees to interact more fully with customers and provide other seamless and vibrant customer experiences by removing the mundane logistics of operating a retail space. The company responded to union concerns saying that Whole Foods locations in question will employ a comparable number of employee positions as those with a traditional checkout structure.

Elizabeth Wallace

About Elizabeth Wallace

Elizabeth Wallace is a Nashville-based freelance writer with a soft spot for data science and AI and a background in linguistics. She spent 13 years teaching language in higher ed and now helps startups and other organizations explain - clearly - what it is they do.

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