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Defining “Frictionless” and “Checkout-Free”: Why Many of the Latest Automated Retail Solutions Are Anything But

Krishna Motukuri Nov 21, 2018 5:37:57 PM

It’s hard to miss the latest headlines about big retail brands rolling out new innovations designed to provide better shopping experiences. Many of these initiatives are oriented around checkout-free and/or cashier-less approaches that are intended to streamline operations and reduce “friction” for the customer.

Take the use of scan-and-go mobile apps being tested by a certain big box retailer in the U.S.  to provide a better, so-called “frictionless” experience for shoppers. In Asia and Europe, the rapid move from self-service checkout—and mobile scanning devices at grocery stores, to “scan & go” mobile apps is also grabbing column inches, with three major grocers in the UK: Asda, Marks & Spencer and Coop, all recently announcing trials or pilot extension programs.

At Zippin we strongly believe that scan-and-go retail solutions are anything but frictionless. In fact, they are:

  1. Not checkout-free at all - they simply shift the burden of “cashiering” - i.e., scanning item barcodes to ring up purchases - from in-store staff to customers;
  2. Often don’t eliminate retail lines as shoppers have to find a sales associate to verify their purchases before they can leave the store

  3. May result in greater losses due to theft and inaccuracies; and,

  4. Are at best, a stop-gap solution to the larger customer demand for a truly frictionless shopping experience, i.e.: one like Zippin’s where you can ‘check-in’ to a store, pick up the items you need and then simply walk out

Mobile, Scan-and-Go Shifts The Work to Customers

Whether using a mobile app, or a handheld scanner, “scan-and-go” is really just another method of self-checkout. These approaches are error-prone, and often off-putting to customers.

The dislike consumers express for any method of self-checkout is widely documented, including a recent lengthy article in Vox in which writer Kaitlyn Tiffany noted: “When [a retailer] installs a new self-checkout, it’s not “automating” the process of checkout; it’s simply turning the register around, giving it a friendlier interface, and having the shopper do the work themselves.”

Margins Are Too Thin to Risk Theft and Loss

In addition to irritating shoppers, asking consumers to scan their own items often results in higher rates of theft and loss. According to an article published this spring in The Atlantic, coupon company Voucher Codes Pro surveyed more than 2,600 people and found nearly 20 percent admitted to stealing from self-checkout in the past; half said they did so because they didn’t think they would get caught.

A 2016 study by the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom found retailers that use self-checkouts had a loss rate of four percent, double the industry average. And it’s no secret that brick and mortar retailers are already challenged with razor-thin margins, so any additional loss is not acceptable.

Truly Frictionless Solutions Are Within Reach

It’s easy to see why some companies might view ‘scan and go’ as an accessible “interim” route to automating retail and reducing labor costs. New developments in AI, visual cognition and sensor fusion technology make truly frictionless solutions possible—and more advantageous—for retailers and real estate owners to leapfrog halfway compromises and go directly to checkout-free.

With systems like Zippin, there is less upfront expense to outfit an existing or new store, and with a strong rate of ROI, most retailers are abie to recoup their investment within six months or less.

There are additional powerful benefits that other systems can’t offer including real-time data analytics, inventory tracking, and much more.

Finally, and most importantly, an easy and quick shopping experience that allows you to just zip in, grab what you need and zip right out is not just the only true definition of frictionless in the eyes of most consumers - but it’s what the people want.

According to a recent survey by *MuleSoft, a majority (60%) of internet users worldwide said they would prefer a "just walk out" shopping experience if offered by other retailers. The number climbs to 75% for shoppers under 35.

Learn more about our views on truly frictionless shopping, checkout-free retail, and our proprietary technology approach by downloading our new white paper here.



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