COMMENTARY

What role will kiosks play in an autonomous checkout world?

What role will kiosks play in an autonomous checkout world?

Image courtesy of iStock

Jeff Hsu is head of global procurement at Standard Cognition, a provider of automated checkout technology.

by Jeff Hsu

Retailers across the nation have been pushed to think hard about their strategy for improving the checkout experience and integrating autonomous checkout to their stores, as Amazon's cashierless Amazon Go store has hit the headlines. Approaches vary, from older "scan and go" systems that essentially transfer the labor of checkout from cashier to customer, to computer vision and artificial intelligence based systems that use cameras and software to let consumers shop and pay without waiting in line, scanning or stopping to check out.

In the latter scenario, the systems recognize and track what's in a person's bag or basket without tracking their actual identity. Then, when the shopper is ready to leave, the contents of their basket are instantly identified and totaled so they can quickly pay and exit the store. 

But where do kiosks fit in a world without checkout lanes? 

Kiosks provide payment flexibility 

Kiosks are already firmly entrenched in the retail world — customers appreciate their convenience and have come to rely on them to improve their experience, whether that's finding a place or item via an informational kiosk, paying bills at a payment kiosk at a mobile phone store, or even renting a bicycle at a bicycle share dock. 

Amazon Go assumes that all shoppers will be carrying their phones, and that people will want to pay with an app. However, in the U.S., up to a third of all retail customers rely on cash as their primary form of payment. Why deny those customers of their payment preference?

Only a small fraction of today's shoppers pay with apps; the majority are relying on card payment (credit and debit) or cash. Making it a requirement would be a huge (and for many, unwelcome) change of behavior. This is the sweet spot for kiosks to shine.

In a store without cashiers, shoppers will expect more flexibility, not less. Payment kiosks that accept cash, credit, and debit — the popular forms of payment — will allow retailers to maintain that flexibility that shoppers depend on. In fact, we foresee a future in retail in which there are fewer checkout lines but far more kiosks than we see today, offering speed, convenience and a better overall customer experience.

Kiosks create a frictionless experience 

The objective of autonomous checkout is to create a frictionless experience for customers. Systems that require the use of an app for payment are not frictionless. Allowing customers to shop and then stop at a kiosk via any means they choose — that's frictionless.

What kind of kiosks are best suited to meet these needs?

Payment forms vary globally, and a kiosk's capabilities should match the common payment methods that are accepted in a particular area. In Japan, for instance, contactless cards are the payment standard, already providing a fast, convenient way for consumers to pay. In other areas of the world, cash is still king. Making sure that the payment options are aligned with what a given shopper uses and expects is key.

When considering the type of kiosk for autonomous checkout, it's also important to note the difference between the traditional self-checkout kiosk from a payment kiosk.

A self-checkout kiosk you might find at a local grocery store requires the shopper to scan, bag and pay for their own items (which puts the work on the customer), whereas a payment kiosk that is part of an autonomous checkout solution facilitates a smooth and frictionless transaction. Shoppers should be able to place items from the store shelf into their bag, go to a payment kiosk which displays a total amount, and pay. The interaction should be short and pleasant.

Retailers can decide what capabilities they want to offer on their payment kiosks as they shape their ideal customer experience — contactless, chip cards, cash, gift cards or all of the above. In discussions with retailers all over the world, it has become clear that those who plan to roll out autonomous checkout see payment kiosks as a natural and necessary part of the solution. 


Topics: Customer Experience, DVD Kiosks, Photo Kiosks, Retail, Self-Checkout


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