Is The Future of Retail Totally Self-Service?

Self-Service Check out

April 20, 2017

Self-service checkout is fast becoming commonplace in the retail world. Customers are largely happy to scan their own purchases, pack their own bag and make their way home after an essentially human-less retail experience. The emergence of self-service checkouts has begun to erode the traditional shopping model, now many technologists are asking if we need a checkout at all.

Online retail giant Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar store in Seattle and has begun experimenting with checkout-less shopping. “Just browse and shop like you would at any other store. Then you’re on your way. No lines, no checkout!” their website states.

Customers simply scan the Amazon app on their phones when entering the store and Amazon’s in-store technology adds items to their virtual basket as they pickup real products. Items are even subtracted if they are returned to the shelf. There may still be some kinks to work out but all the signs suggest we are entering a new era of self-service retail.

While the technical specifications of the Amazon Go system remain a mystery, modern technology provides a number of ways to make this a reality. Advanced video surveillance combined with RFID technology and other sensors are likely being used at Amazon.

Many technologists would agree that item-level tracking technologies like RFID hold the key to a truly accurate and seemless self-service shopping experience. Using low-cost passive RFID tags, items and customers can be tracked within the store. The location and number of items is obvious to the system, and only items held by the customer when leaving the store will be charged.

Is RFID emerging as the ideal technology to take us into this new self-service future of retail? What comes next is anyone’s guess. Perhaps mind reading delivery drones that bring you what you want… before you know you want it.

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