Touchless Checkout: The Next Frontier for Food Retailers?

More operators want to provide safe, seamless checkout. 

January 18, 2021

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—As a result of COVID-19, it’s never been more important for food retailers to embrace tech-enabled solutions that give provide customers a safe and seamless shopping experience, reports SmartBrief.com.

In fact, the latest Omnichannel Grocery Report from PYMNTS found that more than one-third of shoppers would switch to a grocer that offers touchless payment technology, such as QR codes, digital wallets or cards on file. An even higher number of consumers who have already experienced in-store technology (40.6%) would consider a change.

Touchless checkout technology—digital wallets, mobile banking apps, QR codes and other forms of payment—are being adopted en masse, and Juniper Research expects smart checkout technology to be a $387 billion business by 2025.

Albertsons unveiled the Albertsons Pay program in October, which lets customers pay through their bank or a stored-value account via a QR code generated in the grocer’s loyalty app. In August, Kroger’s rolled out a contactless payment pilot that utilizes near-field communication technology to accept payment from through Google, Samsung, Apple, Fitbit, contactless chip cards and mobile banking apps.

Scan-and-go technology has also been cropping up at supermarkets. While its future is still uncertain, it has seen renewed interest due to the pandemic. Sam’s Club introduced the technology in its stores in 2016 but now touts it as a safe alternative to traditional shopping. Walmart recently added mobile scan-and-go capabilities for Walmart+ members.

In May, Associated Wholesale Grocers partnered with FutureProof Retail to roll out similar technology to member stores, allowing independent retailers to compete favorably in all markets by eliminating the wait at checkout.

Amazon Go’s Just Walk Out system lets shoppers select merchandise and bypass the checkout, and technology companies are beginning to see a deluge of funding to help get this type of seamless system off the ground. As NACS Daily reported last week, Hudson News plans to use Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in a new concept in Dallas Love Field Airport.

Amazon has taken another swing at touchless tech with the Dash Cart, available at its Go Grocery stores. The cart uses computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to tabulate what merchandise a customer is buying. A QR code in the Amazon app allows customers to access the cart and sensors within a designated checkout lane and process the payment.

As NACS Daily reported last week, the COVID-19 vaccine may not alter digital shopping habits because consumers are now accustomed to the convenience of online ordering food. That means adopting the updated technology is becoming a necessity. In November, autonomous checkout provider Standard Cognition found that 31% of shoppers would be more likely to shop at retailers that offered checkout-free technology, and 22% would prefer retailers with touchless payment options.

“The good news is that in-store shopping isn’t going away,” said Jordan Fisher, CEO, Standard Cognition, an AI-powered checkout provider. “But there is a large proportion of consumers who are wary of shopping in stores right now. As this study reveals, retailers that are able to provide checkout-free experiences and other touchless technologies are going to be better equipped to draw customers into stores going forward.”

Read more about contactless and mobile payments in “What’s Next for Mobile Pay?” in the July 2020 issue of NACS Magazine, and QR codes in “Code Switch” in the December 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.

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