Cashierless C-Store to Compete with Amazon

Zippin inspired by slow check-out line at Trader Joe’s.

June 13, 2019

SAN FRANCISO, Calif. – Zippin, the first cashierless convenience store to compete directly with Amazon Go, was inspired by the founder’s wait in line at a Trader Joe’s, according to In 2014, Krishna Motukuri, Zippin CEO, was waiting in line with his milk purchase when he thought, “There has to be a better way. A line is always a big deterrent to customers.”

Today, Zippin’s 250-square-foot location in San Francisco allows customers to come in and grab the items they want and go. Their purchases are registered by cameras and sensors within the store. While computer visioning technology has dramatically improved over the last half-decade, it is not yet accurate enough to fly solo. There are many variables in a physical store, such as other customers who could block a shot or goods small enough to disappear into a customer’s hand that the camera can miss. Zippin addresses these issues by adding weight-sensitive shelf sensors to the mix.

In order to shop, customers log into the Zippin app when entering the store and attach a payment method. They then pick up the goods they want and go. Though geared to speed shoppers who are tech savvy, the store accepts cash in compliance with the recent city law that bans totally cashless retailers.

The shop opened in August 2018 for limited hours and smaller suppliers. According to Motukuri, the early response was positive, and consumers are moving through their shopping experiences much more quickly than in a traditional convenience shop.

In addition, speed has also inspired a greater frequency of visits among consumers, Motukuri noted. First-time customers tend to “walk around,” though the store is small, but on subsequent trips they tend to shop faster. Some customers return more than once throughout the day, sometimes within the same 10-minute block.

“Once they’re used to this experience, customers won’t want any kind of self-checkout, or anything where they’re required to do a lot of work,´ Motukuri said.

Zippin wants to bring its technology package to other retailers seeking contactless payments. Those talks with at least four different major retailers have advanced, though Motukuri declined to offer specific names. Motukuri said Zippin’s technology can scale up to larger stores, but the price increases in proportion to a store’s square footage, which means that initially the focus will be on smaller outlets.

Motukuri and Zippin are not alone in the quest to remove cashiers from the checkout process. The Bay Area is home to AiFi, Standard Cognition and Trigo Vision, all of which have similar goals but different technological approaches to cashierless retailing. Currently, Zippin is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.