AI and automatic cash registers: end of queuing?

by | Oct 20, 2018 | Uncategorized

Thanks to AI and image recognition automatic cash registers can eliminate queues in stores and create a new, seamless customer journey.

Everyone has experienced the pain of queuing for hours in a shop. Waiting in line at the cash register reduces customer satisfaction because it slows the purchasing process. However, it is often impossible to increase the number of cash registers in stores, mainly for a lack of space, human or financial resources.

Automatic cash registers

Automatic cash registers have been one of the most recent solutions. On the one hand, they increase the number of cash registers without hiring more cashiers. On the other hand, they do not really solve the problem of queues. Indeed, customers still have to scan their items and make the payment themselves.

Wouldn’t the solution be to completely eliminate registers to create a fluid customer experience with a free-flow check-out system? To do that, it would be necessary to automate three tasks: item recognition, customer identification, and payment. Thanks to computer vision, we can partially meet the first two tasks, and several companies have already implemented such a system.

1. Connected stores in the United States and China

Opened in 2018 in Seattle, Amazon Go is the first “connected” supermarket without cash registers. The concept is simple. Thanks to cameras and weight sensors placed on the shelves, the system recognizes which person has taken which product. After that, customers scan their Amazon Go application when they enter the store, do their shopping and leave without queuing at the cash register. Finally, they go through the gates that trigger invoicing.

Similarly, Carrefour, partnering with Tencent, is testing facial recognition payment in one of its stores in Shanghai. The system scans your face via a tablet with a camera and compares it to a photo database linked to the WeChat payment system. If the image matches, your account is debited and you can exit. Other similar systems exist in China where customers validate their invoices via a mobile application.

These connected stores are very successful in China and the United States. In fact, Amazon Go plans to open 3,000 restaurants with no cash or staff by 2021 and aims to open outlets in the United Kingdom. Moreover, in China, Alibaba has high ambitions for its Hema connected stores, with the objective of opening more than 2,000 points of sale within five years.

Automatic cash registers at Amazon Go.

Amazon Go’s self-service supermarket in Seattle.

2. Compass Group

In France, Compass Group, the world leader in corporate catering, has called on Deepomatic to facilitate queues in its restaurants. Specifically, Compass has developed an image recognition system capable of automatically recognizing dishes on meal trays and issuing an invoice. The technology has absorbed peak hours to provide a more pleasant service to customers. 

3. Casino Supermarchés

In addition, the supermarket group Casino has just opened its first digital store “4 Casino” on the Champs Elysées, in Paris. The store is equipped with a brand-new augmented reality showcase, touch screens, and an application to scan products and pay online. However, Casino has not (yet) been able to implement visual recognition and customer visual identification to really deliver a 100% seamless experience.

Conclusion

In conclusion, creating a free-flow check-out system is a technical challenge that few companies seem capable of winning. However, this technology is essential to revolutionize customer experience in shops. Currently, the customer journey is not entirely smooth. Indeed, it is still necessary to have staff in-store for scanning and payment procedures.

To achieve a completely seamless shopping experience, it is necessary to start with an assisted customer journey to finally eliminate checkouts… and long lines!

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