For decades, convenience store operators have capitalized on the reactive nature of consumers’ impulse shopping. In 2019, consumer preference for convenience stores was already on the rise as busier lifestyles, smaller households and aging populations found this format more attractive.
But COVID drove even more people to frequent convenience stores for the small indulgences they needed to feel okay without the perceived health risks that supermarkets suddenly posed. As the lockdowns ensued, convenience store operators experienced significant growth in 2020, much of which was driven by completely new customers.
As more store operators look towards how they will continue this momentum in 2021, an increasing number are turning to autonomous store technology to drive higher ROI.
Over the past ten months, this new technology has begun to disrupt the convenience store industry worldwide, offering great potential to differentiate and drive greater consumer loyalty.
Autonomous store technology leverages many different approaches to reduce the contact that consumers have with the store. There are many different options emerging in the market today that offer retailers various growth opportunities. The core of nearly every “contactless” or “cashierless” shopping technology includes: AI/ML, computer vision, IoT sensors, edge computing and payment gateway APIs.
For consumers, the experience is seamless. All they have to do is scan a QR code on their phone, take what they need and leave. Psychologically, there is no longer a point of friction where the shopper has to evaluate their total, dig into their wallet and pay. They don’t have to worry about touching anything or anyone. And more retailers are finding that consumers in a contactless store won’t hesitate to add just one more thing to increase basket size.
Retailers around the globe are adapting autonomous store technology in new ways to meet regional market demands and shopping habits. In Asia-Pacific and EMEA specifically, micro market stores are cropping up in abnormal places, such as airports, transit hubs, office spaces, and factories. In the US, large grocery retailers like Ahold Delhaize have piloted micro markets to serve target audiences like office workers with great success. As more people return to offices and factories, autonomous stores offer shoppers speed, safety and convenience.
The early majority of adopters using autonomous store technology are finding that business benefits far surpass the minor investment it takes to introduce the system. Here are just a few examples of how store operators are quickly recouping their investment.
Analytics: Stores can have powerful insights into what’s selling and customer shopping habits to sell more of what is in demand. For example, if customers are buying certain items together, it opens up the ability to create an end cap combining them for ease of discovery. With visibility into what people buy, it also becomes easier to manage inventories and assess shrinkage problems.
Apps: Managing engagement becomes even more seamless when a store already has an application installed on the consumer’s mobile device. And for store owners, managing inventory over a mobile device is far more efficient than tally sheets and clipboards.
Employee Efficiency and Satisfaction: Cashierless checkout makes employees available for higher-value tasks like customer service, store cleaning and restocking, and other operational tasks. They’ll also never have to deal with improper pricing, a source of great frustration for customers and employees alike.
New Location Opportunities: Autonomous stores make it much easier to create small, convenience stores in office buildings and other non-traditional locations.
Integrations: seamless integration with most stores’ existing payment technology such as Adyen, PayPal, and Klarna make it easy for consumer to adopt and reduces complexity to deploy.
Pervasive technology: Stores don’t need to build anything organically or understand the nuances of how autonomous technology works. They just need to identify the right partner who can combine the technology, expertise, and consulting to configure based on customer needs.
UST offers “Walk In, Walk Out” autonomous store technology as part of a partnership with Intel and Cloudpick. We’re hosting a free webinar on November 17th with our partners and customers to dive into the finer details of how to achieve business ROI with autonomous store technology. Those who attend it live will be able to ask the experts their lingering questions. We’ll also provide a video recorded to anyone who registers.