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When Tesco launched its ‘one in front’ policy years ago to ensure a new checkout line was opened whenever more than one customer was in front of the line at any of its checkouts it was early recognition from the retail industry that customers simply hate queuing.

The current major trend towards cashier-free stores is simply the next step on from ‘one in front’ and the like because the ultimate objective of such initiatives is to remove as much friction as possible from the customers’ shopping experience, which invariably involves stripping out the hassle around the checkout element – comprising the scanning of and paying for goods.

It is Amazon that lit the touch-paper in this area when it unleashed its Go stores in the US. Although only a handful of these sensor and camera-packed outlets exist and are being rolled out only very slowly they have clearly had a disproportionate effect on the industry as myriad other retailers around the globe are currently developing their own versions of the cashier-free store.

The likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and the Co-operative are among those in the UK experimenting with the introduction of apps and technology in-store that enables shoppers to scan their own goods and pay by phone. The levels of actual friction involved in the process differs by each retailer with a combination of customers having to load the relevant shopping app, connecting to the retailers’ loyalty programme, and having to load certain payment apps being potentially required.

In reality this is far too much friction and represents a serious obstacle to shoppers embracing cashier-free shopping. Certainly it is far removed from the experience Amazon has spent mountains of money creating at its Go stores. This might be why a recent survey from Walnut Unlimited found that half of shoppers questioned in the UK are less likely to visit a checkout-free store. As many as 36% of shoppers are much less likely to visit a store they use regularly if it went checkout-free.

This should be a stark warning sign. Although such outlets represent an exciting future, retailers need to ensure they deliver a truly connected friction-free experience and not some clunky set up. With rushing out weak propositions they run the risk of setting back their efforts and losing the confidence of shoppers rather than moving forwards to what could be a bright future.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider

K3 Retail partners with businesses to provide connected technologies based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 so retailers can reach their goals now and in the future. In a size that best fits future plans wherever you need it – Cloud, Hybrid or On-premise. Our solutions drive more than 800 international retail brands from Charles Tyrwhitt and The White Company to Ryman and Sue Ryder, Hobbycraft, Wasabi and Ted Baker, K3 Retail is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and the UK’s leading Microsoft Dynamics retail partner.