Supermarkets have seen big changes in checkout technology over the last decade. First there was self-checkout, and then contactless payments and mobile payment technology like Apple Pay, and next we could see queues for checkouts eliminated altogether.
One of our predicted retail trends of 2017, the growth of mobile payment technologies and automatic payments, could significantly change the way customers shop in store. Traditional manned checkouts have seen a major decline from 71% in 2012 to just 52% this year. According to data from retail consultants Zebra Technologies, this progression will continue with a quarter of UK retailers aiming to have no queues by 2021. This has two key benefits for retailers: firstly, it helps cut staffing costs and secondly, it makes it easier (and potentially quicker) for customers to make purchases.
The ambitious launch of Amazon Go, trialled in Seattle and set to come to the UK, is perhaps the most high profile development. The cashless and queue-less supermarket allows shoppers to get billed automatically when they leave the store with their selected items.
Amazon is not the only well-known retailer implementing innovations to eliminate queues.
For example, Waitrose has rolled out self-scanning devices in some shops which look and feel like smartphones and which let customers upload their shopping lists. Waitrose has also developed Quick Check. This app allows customers to scan product barcodes on their smartphones as they shop instead of at the till.
The increasing affordability of this type of technology will be welcome news for retailers. With Brexit now firmly on the horizon, the pound has endured a progressive fall in value, which has seen the recent rise in inflation hit the high street. The reduction of staff and tills that this technology brings will see retailers able to cut costs at a time when their margins could be squeezed.