Autonomous stores have already become a reality in most part of the world. An autonomous store is nothing but a cashier-less store where the customer just has to walk into a store, pick a product, and pay for it through their smartphones. From the moment a customer walks into the store, to when he leaves, there would be absolutely no human to help the person.
Touted as the future the retail marketing, the technology puts the customer in a data space where the cameras within the store track the products that you take from each shelf. The unique QR code lets the customer pay the amount through their mobile phone. The technology basically makes sales persons redundant and combines the best practices of an online and offline store for enhancing customer satisfaction.
Due to its highly disruptive nature, e-commerce and retail giants have already unveiled their autonomous stores across the globe. We look at some of the big names in the industry and how they differ from each other.
Amazon Go: Introduced in 2018, Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology enables customers to walk into Amazon Go stores and walk out with a product, without any salesperson bothering the customers. The store is equipped with computer vision, sensors and relies on deep learning technique for facilitating the shopping. The weight sensors on the product shelves monitor the movement of the product and a dozen or so cameras detects the customers’ movement.
Though it has been introduced as a pilot project in the US, the company hopes to add 3000 automated stores within the next three years. The company is presently at the process of strengthening its technology for a robust automated store. For this, Amazon is collating data about the customer preferences including what they stopped to look at and what they didn’t even buy. The company hopes to obtain customers’ nuanced shopping behaviour through its AI-driven customer insight systems.
Watasale: This unique initiative can be seen as India’s answer to Amazon Go, thus making it the first ever in the country. Based out of Kochi, the store functions along the same lines of Amazon Go. through their store, Watasale presently sells products like soda and chips and other smaller goods that their customers can easily pick and carry.
It took the makers of the store three years to complete the project and the team is closely collecting customers’ data for fixing the initial glitches. Unlike Amazon Go, the team is particular about not intruding into their customers’ privacy. Speaking to a leading national daily, Rajesh Malamal, the chief marketing operator of Watasale said, “We are only looking at big data to get analytics about the products being bought to get information about inventory. We are not venturing into anything risky that will compromise customer privacy.” The company also hopes to get enough funding in the future for expanding Watasale into a chain store.
Walmart: While all the major retail and e-commerce players are testing the waters with the automated store, Walmart couldn’t afford to miss out on the tech. So in April 2018, Walmart introduced the Check Out With Me feature which has been introduced in its Lawn & Garden Centers which sells plants and other agriculture-based products. Owing to the difficulty of handling large purchases for both the staff and customers, Walmart has equipped its staff with a Bluetooth device which can accept card payments from the shopping aisle itself. This, the retailers say, will save the customers from the trouble of pushing heavy carts around the store.
Though it doesn’t completely negate sales-persons, it does reduces their role substantially.
Tesco: The leading British multinational general merchandise retailer has been in the news lately for venturing into a cashier-free store. In June this year, the company’s new autonomous feature called Scan Pay Go was used by its 100 staffers in a trial run. Tesco claims that their new feature can reduce the average shopping time of a customer by 45 seconds. The company has also gone out of its way to improve its customer satisfaction, by using deep-learning technology each Tesco’s automated store plays background music according to the age profile of its outlet shoppers.
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Akshaya Asokan works as a Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine. She has previously worked with IDG Media and The New Indian Express. When not writing, she can be seen either reading or staring at a flower.