For convenience stores to make good on their promise to consumers, they must offer not only a comprehensive range of essential products but also a quick and seamless retail journey.

Noting this need, global convenience store giant Couche-Tard announced last week that it is implementing artificial intelligence (AI) self-service “Smart Checkout” machines in more than 7,000 Circle K and Couche-Tard locations over the next three years. The system, created by checkout technology company Mashgin, is meant to offer a checkout option that is eight times quicker than traditional self-service checkout.

“We’re committed to investing in and scaling technology that sets a new standard for convenience with our customers and advances our mission to make our customers’ lives a little easier every day,” Magnus Tägtström, vice president of global innovation at Couche-Tard, said in a statement. “The Smart Checkout system powered by Mashgin’s game-changing technology shortens lines, improves the customer experience and frees up our teams to focus on helping our customers.”

As AI-powered self-checkout options become more common in a range of retail categories, the c-store industry has proved a hotbed of innovation, which makes sense given that speed and expediency are by definition the key qualities of the category. Amazon, for instance, first introduced its “Just Walk Out” cashier-less checkout system at its Go brand c-stores. Checkout-free technology platform Grabango has been bringing a similar system to c-store brand MAPCO in Tennessee, and Grabango has even worked with Couche-Tard to test the system at a handful of locations.

See also: Grabango Adding Checkout-Free Tech to MAPCO Stores

Frictionless Checkout Goes Big with Amazon, Circle K

By the Numbers

PYMNTS’ 2021 study, Today’s Self-Service Shopping Journey: The New Retail Expectation, created in collaboration with Toshiba, which surveyed over 2,000 U.S. consumers about their shopping behaviors, found that 33% of consumers had used self-service checkout methods for their most recent grocery purchase and 34% for their most recent retail purchase. Additionally, the study found that, across categories, the most common reason consumers did not use self-service methods was that cashier-service checkout was the only option available.

More details: Consumers Want Self-Service Checkout Options But Rarely Get to Use Them

Those who do use self-checkout methods are looking for speed and convenience. The study found that two-thirds of those who took advantage of these options reported doing so because it is faster than cashier-service checkout, and that half did so because it enabled them to skip the line.

What Insiders Are Saying

Adoption of self-checkout rose following March 2020 as a way to minimize contact with other people, but its continued popularity shows how consumers’ expectations are evolving.

“It’s clear that users prefer to have a contactless experience,” Ariel Shemesh, co-founder and CEO of retail computer vision provider KanduAI, told PYMNTS in a September interview, reflecting on how shopper behavior has changed since the start of the pandemic. “Self-checkout definitely got a lot of users who used to go to the cashiers, and they didn’t really mind waiting in line, but they got acquainted with this technology and now they basically demand it.”

See also: 3 Friction Points Slowing the Adoption of Self-Checkout for Grocers

Additionally, Yair Holtzer, vice president of business development at computer vision startup Trigo, predicted in a November interview with PYMNTS that frictionless checkout options will grow far more common in the years ahead.

“In five years, I believe that you will have thousands of autonomous stores,” he said said, specifying that these will include both small-format convenience stores in dense, urban areas and larger-format supermarkets. “You will be able to still buy in the traditional way, if you want … but you will also be able to choose the green lane to just walk in, grab the items and walk out.”

You may also like:  Frictionless Checkout Brings eCommerce Convenience into Stores to Drive Conversion



About: PYMNTS’ survey of 2,094 consumers for The Tailored Shopping Experience report, a collaboration with Elastic Path, shows where merchants are getting it right and where they need to up their game to deliver a customized shopping experience.

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