Digital Innovators: Unattended Commerce

June 2019

The notion of employee-less stores has gained interest worldwide, prompting buzz around kiosk-based ordering in restaurants, cashierless checkout, and completely unmanned stores by companies including Amazon, JD and BingoBox. Driven by start-ups and enormous tech companies, these technologies have the potential to usher in new business models, lower operating costs and save customers time. Companies profiled include Zaitt, Iris Nova, Innisfree, HaiDiLao, Sam’s Club, Ceconomy AG and Flyzoo.

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Key findings

Interest in unattended commerce has exploded in the last three years

Driven in part by big investments into unmanned stores by major players including JD.com and Amazon, many retailers, restaurants and tech companies have begun exploring fully and partially unattended checkout formats. Examples of technologies used include self-checkout stations, mobile-based scan and go initiatives, ordering via a kiosk or in-store screen, and fully unattended take and go formats.

Unattended commerce has the potential to yield significant benefits for companies with brick-and-mortar locations

Unattended commerce has two primary benefits for companies: reduced costs and improved customer experience. Costs are reduced primarily via lowering labour costs by requiring fewer employees to process purchases. Customer experience can be improved in a number of ways, including offering extended hours at reduced costs, removing the risk of long queues to check out, and allowing front-line employees to be moved from checkout to higher value tasks, such as providing recommendations to and gathering feedback from shoppers.

Risks accompany unattended commerce

Unattended commerce carries certain risks, mainly around the financial costs of implementing unattended commerce technology, the social and civic risks of cutting jobs particularly in high unemployment markets, and the fact that shoppers have varied opinions about unattended commerce. What appeals to one subset of consumers may be off-putting to another. Companies can mitigate these risks by choosing a technology carefully, moving employees to other tasks rather than eliminating them, and offering shoppers a range of options so they can choose.

Unmanned checkout is likely to gain more traction in the years ahead

Thanks to the cost reductions and improvements to the customer experience, interest in unattended commerce is only likely to increase in the next five years. Companies should prepare to invest in these services, and consider carefully the ways that companies in different regions, industries and price points can introduce unattended commerce elements in ways that benefit their consumers.

Introduction

Scope of the Digital Consumer
Key findings
Unattended commerce pre-dates both Amazon and Alibaba
Hybrid locations pave the way for full unattended commerce
Challenges remain: privacy and security fears, infrastructure costs
High-impact trend for markets with high wages, ageing populations
Maintaining a high-quality consumer experience remains critical
Selected unattended commerce solutions comparison
Foodstuffs: bringing image recognition to shopping carts
Sam’s Club: introducing a better scan and go
Saturn Express: engaging consumers, empowering employees
Zaitt: unmanned convenience stores in an emerging market
Zara: new digital flagship showcases self-checkout, scan and go
Hotel Koe Tokyo: unattended hours to serve more customers
Innisfree and Alibaba: new retail merges offline and online insights
HaiDiLao: autonomous restaurant streamlines hotpot
Iris Nova: take and text demonstrates conversational commerce
b;eat: Kiosk-based ordering and robot baristas reduce wait times
Flyzoo : incorporating robots, facial recognition in a hotel
Opportunities that going autonomous offers commerce players
Predictions for how unattended commerce will develop in 2019
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