The Store of the Future: How to Evaluate the Value of Autonomous Technologies
After a year in which person-to-person contact was all but banned, contactless payments, online ordering, and curbside pickup have become the norm. Out of necessity, consumer adoption of these technologies has accelerated. In fact, 78 percent of consumers globally have made changes to how they pay in the last year to utilize touchless forms of payment, like Google Pay or Apple Pay, and tap-to-pay credit cards. Shoppers are not only more comfortable with touchless payment, but more accustomed to receiving goods on demand, finding it generally more convenient and often more affordable.
To meet these needs and enhance the customer experience, retailers are rushing to install new technically advanced systems. Across convenience, fuel, hospitality, concessions, grocery and more, brands are looking for best-in-class solutions to operationalize autonomous checkout as quickly as possible.
Those looking to install cashier-free checkout capabilities should focus on vendors offering real, customer-centric solutions which take into account operational efficiencies, store formats, and existing and future challenges of modern shopping. The key to deciphering between the technologies available is understanding what will actually make an impact on your business.
Out With the Old
The autonomous shopping experience retailers are so excited to offer will be most successful in new store formats. While it may appear faster to apply a tech-enabled veneer to the standard way of shopping, retrofitting existing infrastructure can limit the time- and labor-saving potential of autonomous retail. The cost of installing traditional shelving units with internet capabilities, or strategically placing cameras to see around traditionally placed merchandise will eventually outweigh the benefits and deplete return on investment. The true value proposition for autonomous shopping is about more than just upgrading the technical capabilities of a single store; it’s a reimagining of the entire community through purpose-built design.
An autonomous market, for example, can be built with a smaller footprint than a traditional brick-and-mortar store, providing more possibilities for multiple locations in closer proximity. This brings the market nearer to its customers and turns it into a micro-fulfillment center, serving as a distribution hub or delivery launchpad within the community, allowing brands to reach more people at lower costs.
Choose Tech That ‘Walks the Walk’
The true value of autonomous retail lies in systems capable of running on their own. This opens up completely new purchase flows supported by employees who now have time to manage more advanced, higher-value tasks. Emerging technologies, like shelf-level sensors with artificial intelligence (AI) and comprehensive computer vision, reduce the need for human micro-management.
To guarantee a system works properly and without unnecessary human oversight, retail brands should look to technology partners that have a deep understanding of how hardware and software can work together to deliver truly autonomous solutions.
Seek Customer-Centric Solutions
Keep in mind the end user is the most important and most verbal critic. To secure buy-in in today’s consumer-driven economy, autonomous solutions must genuinely improve the customer experience while respecting privacy.
The success of this technology lies in the accuracy with which it tracks live inventory. Precision is key to delivering the right user experience and minimizing tracking costs, which is why offerings like shelf-level sensors are important for ensuring the accuracy of product monitoring. Such a capability expands the definition of “store” from large traditional warehouses down to single-shelf possibilities. This granular sensing is also less expensive and more sustainable, requiring less energy and more accuracy than alternatives like overhead cameras.
Retailers and brands that leverage this technology will create new opportunities for connected commerce, fast store deployments in new locations, and improved customer experiences. The autonomous vision of retail is not only here, it’s inevitable.
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