Frictionless checkout aims to eliminate “friction” or pain points during the checkout process in a store by increasing speed and convenience and dismantling barriers that might make the process more complicated or time consuming.
The term frictionless checkout popped into the mainstream vernacular and quickly reached ubiquity in 2016 when Amazon introduced its first Amazon Go location in San Francisco. It aims to open 3,000 such locations by 2021. Since then multiple retailers and technology companies are vying to define which method of frictionless checkout wins out in the future.
Amazon Go has reversed the usual store experience. Instead of walking in, selecting items and then waiting in line to check out, now customers have more to do on the front end of their trip — such as download an app, enter their payment information and scan the app to enter the store — but when they’re done selecting items they just walk out. The chain has reduced friction by removing the checkout line, interaction with a cashier, and the need to scan and bag items. Ceiling cameras and shelf sensors determine what customers have selected to buy. Moments later, an e-receipt appears on their phone.
Other retail players are testing various methods of frictionless checkout that allows for a cashier-less checkout experience, allowing them to pay via kiosks, scan items using a mobile app, or tap an app to enter, grab their products and leave. Often some combination of ceiling cameras, artificial intelligence, shelf sensors and machine learning are employed to determine what customers are selecting.
California-based AiFi has introduced NanoStore, which allows customers to use a mobile phone or a credit card to enter. Cruizers convenience stores rolled out the Skip app across its 27 North Carolina c-store locations. The Skip app allows customers to pay for items by scanning them within the app. Many other retailers are also partnering with Skip. 7-Eleven is piloting its own in-house Scan & Pay feature within its 7-Eleven app.
Frictionless is about making the process as painless, easy, fast and convenient as possible. But some experts point out that the definition of “frictionless” could differ depending on the needs of each customer. Customers who desire to pay cash may not find a cashless experience reduces friction for them. While those who prefer to pay with an app may dislike standing in line at a kiosk.
For more on frictionless checkout and how the c-store industry is adapting, stay tuned to CSD’s May issue.