The growth of Amazon Go cashierless stores is causing a ripple effect among retailers. It’s what’s been inspiring big-box retailers — among them, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Giant Eagle and others — to develop cashierless payment systems of their own. As a result, technology companies are rushing to meet demand among retailers that want to implement their own checkout-free experiences.
This month, Wirecard entered the race with its own cashierless checkout product suite. Although the company declined to discuss potential customers of its checkout-free technology, it noted that it’s in talks with several retailers. The implementation method will vary by retail partner, but it typically will involve some kind of sign-in to an app when the customer enters the store, after which point the customer will pick up products off shelves and leave, with payments happening automatically using stored card details.
“There are a lot of cameras and sensors in the shop,” said Susanne Steidl, chief product officer at Wirecard. “They automatically check and become aware of the consumer either taking [the items] from the shelf or putting it back into the shelf. Customers don’t want to queue, and [they want] an easy experience.”
To minimize theft, Steidl said cameras can keep a close eye on customers’ activities. In addition, through use of AI and algorithms, the retailer will be able to keep watch on transactions that seem outside of a customer’s normal purchase behavior patterns. Occasionally, customers may be asked to do a spot check prior to leaving the store.
Wirecard is showcasing the new solution at a concept store at its Munich headquarters. The ecosystem of companies delivering cashierless checkout technology has quickly expanded in recent years, including Standard Cognition, Grabango, Zippin, AVA Retail and FutureProof Retail. Wirecard’s adavantage is its established relationships with retailers, including Lidl Online Shop and online supermarket getnow. According to Steidl, the cashierless checkout product can be deployed around the world and can be customized to suit customer habits within each market.
Despite the appeal of cashier-free checkout solutions, a key challenge for retailers is the return on the investment, according to Sucharita Kodali, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “From a deployment standpoint, part of the issue is that retrofitting an existing store is super expensive, especially in the grocery and convenience store categories where margins aren’t very high,” she said. “Right now, the only benefit is it’s delightful from a customer experience standpoint for a few customers — but are they buying more?”
From Wirecard’s standpoint, cashierless checkout is a means to help retailers evolve customer experiences as expectations evolve. “[It’s about] maximum convenience for customers,” said Steidl. “That is what guided us in the thinking and conception of the [cashier-free] store.”
Asked whether Amazon Go stores were impacting on Wirecard’s strategy, Steidl stressed that Wirecard doesn’t want to compete with Amazon. Rather, it seeks to help retailers meet customer expectations that are shaped by the types of experiences that Amazon has rolled out and it is integrating with partner tech companies to make this happen. “Obviously, we are not Amazon and we don’t want to be an Amazon; we see ourselves as enablers,” she said. “With [product] partnerships, we can offer possibilities to retailers, so they can lift themselves up to the same level as Amazon.”