In the store of the future, everything is connected and the cash register is doomed to disappear, but robots will not take over for now. That was the summary of the EuroCis retail technology convention in Düsseldorf.
Get rid of the cash register
Stores without cash registers are retail’s holy grail. Ever since Amazon Go’s launch, everyone is feverishly looking for a seamless store experience eliminating the painful moment of payment, but no one is currently getting any close to the solution. There are plenty of traditional self-scanning solutions or quick-scan devices, but seamless is something else.
A tradition solution to speed up the payment process is what Itab does: thanks to automated 360° scans with weight checks, a cashier only needs to execute a limited number of things and it even suffices to have one person handle two cash registers. Several companies have developed “scan & pay” smartphone apps that puts shoppers to work. FutureProof Retail’s solution, which will be implemented at Spar Colruyt Group soon, could be the most complete one so far.
No scan, but recognition
In order to facilitate, speed up and make the self-scanning process at cash registers able to withstand fraud, some manufacturers have added facial recognition to the scanning methods. This also enables fresh food and weight-focused items, which usually do not have bar codes. The system has improved considerably: Datalogic’s automated Ezigo cash register uses five cameras and can recognize up to five items at the same time.
NCR’s newest self-scanning cash registers use artificial intelligence to recognize (fresh) products based on colour, shape, size and weight. The self-learning system becomes more accurate the more it is used. Supersmart also uses “deep learning” algorithms to recognize products, which allows an entire shopping basket to be checked out in a single go.
Digital labels are indispensable
Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are becoming commonplace, in every industry and there is no escaping them: retailers need to invest in digital price tags, considering price transparency is almost ever-present. The newest generation of shelf labels does more than merely adjust prices. They contain additional information, not only for store employees (stock, logistical data) but also for consumers (product info, links to video, …)
The connected store
Cameras that detect gender, age and even emotions, EAS gates that collect data, sensors that generate heatmaps or track waiting lines, apps that measure conversion, tools that collect feedback, … in-store analysis tools are closely matching those available to web shop owners. Axis connects every store system (including intelligent audio) to enable conversion analysis, Xplace digitizes touch points to enable relevant content and targeted discounts, Wanzi has coinless, RFID shopping carts that map the customer’s movement and time spent in a store…
Can technology surprise shoppers? How about custom digitaladvice? Sensape’s interactive promotional terminals create discounts targeted on age, sex and a consumer’s mood. Curvetips’ touch screens give personalized style advice based on the customer’s preferences. A lot of companies are working on AR or VR applications and are integrating speech assistants, either third party (Alexa from Amazon) or their own versions (such as Culios’ Olivia, a Toshiba partner).
There were quite a few robots roaming the halls in Düsseldorf. The autonomous Stockbot went through the store, checked the amount of products on shelves thanks to RFID and camera technology, creating heatmaps along the way. MetraLabs’ Tory robot creates inventories based on RFID technology, can also detect stock problems and operates as an assistant to help customers in the store.
Online AG’s service robot, Paul, gives information about products and product ranges: he is already being trialed at Saturn. SoftBank Robotics’ famous humanoid robot Pepper was present in different shapes and sizes: he should be able to react to human emotions, but is mainly used as an attraction to greet customers and to show them the way (as he collects data). Good store employees need not fear for their job just yet. Cashiers however…