Sainsbury's Checkout Experience
An essential part of any brick and mortar retail experience is how the customer finds items and pays for them.
The intrinsic benefits of a traditional store (seeing the products) can be neutralized if the process of paying for them is onerous (few checkers; long lines). At the same time, retail is a thin margin business so optimizing staffing is an important part of retail economics, and one where e-Commerce vendors have an intrinsic advantage (it’s easier to optimize warehouse and logistics staffing). For these reasons, various experiments are being done that use modern technology (multiple forms) to expedite or entirely automate the checkout experience.
Sainsbury’s is the 2nd largest grocery chain in the UK, with about 15% market share (revenues > $30bn/year). Sainsbury’s has created a simple, expedited checkout-experience called Sainsbury’s SmartShop. Using either a smartphone application or borrowed store “scanner,” the customer selects, scans and bags desired merchandise, and then goes to a SmartShop checkout station where the sale is completed (verifying the weight of the bag with random content checks), thus avoiding both traditional checkout/scanning queues, and time and complexity of existing manual self-checkout.
Business Need: Optimize customer experience (increase desire to use traditional store), extend hours (automate), minimize labor costs and increase margin.
Retail is in turmoil as traditional and eCommerce approaches compete for the future.
Edge Need: Parts of this solution are computationally intensive. For smaller stores, cloud resources are an attractive solutions compared to in store servers that need administration and environment (security, power, cooling). Some of the suggested technologies are latency sensitive suggesting edge cloud solutions.
Ease of Incorporation: This application uses existing technology and an adapted, existing automatic checkout station. The biggest uncertainties probably concern how to minimize fraud (shoplifting) without tarnishing the consumer experience gain.