Are checkout-free stores the future of the retail industry? Cashierless stores may improve the customer shopping experience but can also help store owners track and leverage consumer purchasing behaviours. Are Aussies ready for the latest in retail tech?
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Online shopping habits have changed since the pandemic, with e-Commerce sales and contactless payment seeing an increase in growth. Consumers have also become accustomed to using tools such as QR codes, apps, and even supermarket Woolworth’s Scan&Go as part of their shopping experience. Following on from self-checkouts, the next trend in retail tech is checkout-free shopping, which supermarkets Aldi and Tesco have already launched in the UK.
Capterra wanted to know how Australians feel about adopting checkout-free shopping. Would consumers welcome the latest in this type of point of sale (POS) technology? We interviewed 998 smartphone owners who live in urban and suburban areas to find out. The full methodology can be found at the bottom of this article.
Checkout-free shopping interests the majority of consumers surveyed
Checkout-free stores have yet to make their way to Australia but are on the rise globally. In 2021, Amazon launched Amazon Fresh in the UK, following the success of Amazon Go in the USA, where shoppers can have a ‘just walk out’ shopping experience. But have Australians heard of this way to shop? It’s close to an even divide for Aussies having an awareness of checkoutless shopping as 40% of survey-takers said they had never heard of it before, but a little over half (53%) had read or heard about the concept.
A combined total of 7% of respondents said they have seen one of the stores near them (3%) or have shopped in a checkout-free store (4%). However, as the stores don’t quite fully exist down under just yet, survey-takers are probably thinking of Scan&Go checkout, which is being used in some supermarkets and most recently in IKEA. Whilst walking around a store, customers can scan a product they want to buy with their mobile device and pay via the app on the way out. Checkout-free shopping is a different experience, which doesn’t require scanning any products.
The following steps explain the process of checkoutless shopping:
- Download the store’s app and save your payment details
- Scan the app/QR code at the store’s entrance gates
- Pick up the items that you want to buy and put them in your bag
- Scan the app/QR code when leaving the store
- The store will automatically charge you via the app
It seems that the majority of smartphone users surveyed by Capterra are curious about trying the new technology. A combined total of 72% expressed an interest in trying these types of checkout-less stores, with 34% saying they are ‘very interested’.
Adopting new technologies for checkout-less shopping
In order to use checkout-free shopping, shoppers must download the store’s app to their mobile and register their payment details. But are consumers willing to do so? Capterra’s survey found that most people are on board as a combined total of 80% said they would feel comfortable having a supermarket or store app instaled on their smartphone (45% are ‘very comfortable’ and 35% are ‘somewhat comfortable’).
The level of comfort in using smartphone technology for shopping was further reflected in our survey results as we asked respondents how they would feel using their device for different shopping-related tasks. These included using their smartphone’s camera to scan products, relying on internet access throughout the whole experience, and scanning QR codes with their phone. Overall, survey-takers responded positively to each scenario.
How consumers feel about payment data security
Amongst the consumers who showed a level of interest in using checkout-free stores, 43% have reservations about letting cashless stores connect directly to their bank account (25% are ‘slightly uncomfortable’ and 18% are ‘very uncomfortable’). Protection against hackers is an important part of digital security. It is especially important for businesses to implement robust cybersecurity measures for customers.
Facial recognition technology may make it more difficult for fraudsters to impersonate customers and steal their identities. There was almost an even divide between survey-takers feeling discomfort versus those who would not if they were to use this type of security in checkout-free stores. 47% of survey-takers would feel comfortable using facial recognition to confirm their age or identity (16% are ‘very comfortable’ and 31% ‘somewhat comfortable’) compared to a combined total of 49% who would not.
The benefits of checkout-free shopping
Shoppers spend a significant amount of time queuing and, on average, seven people in a line is the tipping point as to whether people join a queue or not. But checkout-free shopping provides a faster and more convenient shopping experience for customers, eliminating the need to queue. We asked survey-takers who said they are interested in trying checkout-free shopping, what would be the most important advantages when considering a cashier-less store.
The preferred advantages for respondents include ‘avoiding queues’ (84%), followed by ‘speed of paying for groceries’ (67%), and ‘avoiding contact with people in lines’ (55%). Over a quarter of survey-takers (28%) indicated that ‘agreement not to track information’ could be a benefit when choosing a store. This is important for shop owners to keep in mind for advertising and attracting customers.
We asked survey-takers to pick up to three store types where they would want to try checkout-free shopping. Unsurprisingly, grocery stores were the most popular choice (85%) for our respondents. In February 2022 alone, Aussies spent $10.6 billion at the supermarket, which is the equivalent of about $485 per person. Other popular stores selected by survey-takers included:
- Convenience stores (39%)
- Clothing stores (36%)
- Department stores (30%)
- Pet stores (15%)
Difficulties and concerns about using checkout-free stores
Unfortunately, checkout-free shopping has potential disadvantages for both consumers and retailers. Businesses will have to implement rigorous security systems and processes to protect against any data security concerns. They will also have to rely on technology and be ready for any system malfunctions. And whilst the digital divide (between non-digital and digital technology users) is slowly improving in Australia, less than 40% of people are confident they can keep up with the rapid pace of changing digital technologies.
When survey-takers were asked what their main worries were in using checkout-less stores, ‘being overcharged’ was the biggest concern (68%). 52% of survey-takers were also worried about their ‘smartphone malfunctioning or losing connection’ or having their data hacked (51%).
Whilst authentication tools help secure online transactions, cyberattacks are also a constant threat to the e-Commerce industry and customer data. It is therefore important that checkout-free stores deploy sufficient security measures to reassure their potential users.
We asked survey respondents what they thought would be the most difficult thing about learning to use checkout-free stores. The main difficulty cited the most by 60% of consumers surveyed was ‘not having staff to ask for help.’ Eliminating human contact (the opportunity to interact, share smiles, and a few friendly words) could be seen to dehumanise the shopping experience for customers, especially if they need assistance.
This was closely followed by 59% of consumers ‘not trusting the in-store technology that calculates the purchases’, and the difficulty of ‘using new technology’ (33%). When implementing any new service or process, customer feedback is important, which is why sending out a survey via an e-newsletter can be beneficial for businesses looking to improve their overall client services.
Using tools such as email marketing software or running social media campaigns can help retailers share promotional videos or infographics with product services and information, showing customers how easily things work. The use of digital signage around the store can also inform customers about products and give them instructions on how to use the app.
It’s still early days for checkout-free shopping in Australia just yet. But thanks to the overall shift in digitalisation —as seen with the pandemic— Australian supermarkets may also one day follow the global retail tech trend of becoming cashierless. Our survey highlights that:
- The majority of smartphone users surveyed have heard of checkoutless shopping
- Most consumers said they would feel comfortable having a supermarket or store app downloaded to their smartphone.
- Nearly half of survey-takers feel some level of discomfort with checkout-less store technology connecting directly to their bank account.
- Customers are mostly concerned about being overcharged when it comes to the prospect of cashierless shopping, as well as facing technical issues, such as their smartphone malfunctioning, and difficulties using the app.
- The advantages of using checkout-free shopping, according to consumers, include not having to queue, the speed of shopping, and lack of contact (especially during COVID times)
Whilst cashierless shopping looks to be a quick and convenient way for customers to shop, retailers need to factor in key points, such as the balance between human contact and technology, but also the infrastructures capable of processing customer data in a secure manner.
Data for Capterra’s Go Shopping survey was collected in April 2022. Results comprise responses from 998 Australian participants. The criteria to be selected for this study are as follows:
- Australian resident
- Aged over 18 years old
- Shops for groceries at least once a month
- Living in an urban or suburban area
- Owns a smartphone