No Cashier? No Problem, Consumers Say

“Unattended commerce” is in demand.

February 25, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Whether you call it cashier-less retailing or “unattended commerce,” consumers like it, and that acceptance goes beyond the familiar convenience of candy and soda vending machines.

There are 48.7 million consumers—or 1 in 5 Americans—who would like to buy products and services through unattended retail channels, such as vending machines, self-service kiosks and automated stores, reports And that includes many different types of merchandise, including electronics, cosmetics, clothes and health products.

However, only 14.1 million consumers—6.9% of the population—actually used unattended channels to make a purchase during the past three months. That indicates a major gap between the demand for and supply of unattended retail options. It also reveals a huge potential for market growth.

In The Future of Unattended Retail Report: Vending as the New Contextual Commerce, a survey report, 2,325 U.S. consumers shared their thoughts about unattended shopping. Research found that consumers are more likely to make unattended purchases when shopping is already top of mind. That’s most likely to happen at brick-and-mortar retail stores (15.6% of unattended customers buy here), car washes (13.6%), grocery stores (13.4%) and laundromats (9.6%).

Consumers’ interest in unattended purchases also varies widely depending on the types of products they are buying. Eight out of 10 consumers said they’d like to purchase health products through unattended channels, while just over 6 in 10 would like to buy beauty products. This compares to about half who would like to buy books and magazines.

The report concluded that merchants should consider unattended shopping opportunities when designing and implementing their consumer engagement strategies.