Pretty soon you might find Amazon Go-like concepts just about everywhere.
Mastercard on Friday said it’s joining the effort to create more of these kinds of cashierless stores, unveiling a platform it calls Shop Anywhere. It teamed up with retail tech company Accel Robotics to create a handful of new test concepts that let customers check into a store, grab what they want and walk out.
For instance, the team created a new self-service Dunkin’ store that allows people to check in at a kiosk, get doughnuts and coffee, and leave without stopping at a cashier. The store will be staffed with workers to restock items and provide customer service, but there won’t be a register.
Similar small-scale pilots were created with Delaware North, which runs stadiums, and Circle K, a gas station operator. Mastercard said one to three pilot locations is coming to Dunkin’ in Southern California, Circle K in Arizona and Delaware North across the US, and they’ll be rolled out to more places if they are successful.
The payment network pitched these concepts as more flexible than Amazon Go, with Shop Anywhere capable of going into all kinds of locations and being retrofitted into existing stores — something Amazon Go hasn’t yet done. Both Shop Anywhere and Amazon Go are powered by a series of cameras that are kitted with computer vision and AI.
“Even prior to COVID, the evolution of frictionless experiences is something we were seeing retailers investing in and testing already,” said Stephane Wyper, senior vice president of retail innovation for Mastercard. “Based on the demand we’re seeing, we expect this to grow and expand. It’s not just about the US, we see it as a global trend.”
These locations, while starting small, are part of a growing trend by retailers to reinvent shopping by doing away with cash registers and the lines that come with them. That work could help reinvigorate physical retail, which has been hurt badly by both the coronavirus and customers moving online. With the pandemic, this work toward touch-free payments has taken on greater urgency to make shopping safer for consumers.
Many consumers love the idea of skipping lines, but these concepts aren’t always positive. There’s already concern that they could do away with cashiers and the jobs that come with them. Amazon says that’s not the case for its Go store — it simply transfers employees who would be cashiers to stock shelves or offer customer service. There’s also been a backlash against cashless stores because they are seen as discriminatory to lower-income and younger shoppers who don’t have credit cards or bank accounts.Amazon Go has since added cash counters to its locations.
Amazon Go popularized the idea of cashierless stores when it was introduced in late 2016. The e-commerce company now runs two dozen of these convenience stores across the US, along with one Amazon Go Grocery store. Walmart in 2018 launched a Sam’s Club location in Dallas that lets customers buy merchandise using a phone app. Other companies, including Zippin and Standard Cognition, are working on similar checkout-free tech.
Mastercard is adding its own spin on these concepts. Along with the Dunkin’ self-service location, it created souped-up vending machines that have cold beverages and fresh food inside at Circle K. You scan your card, open the door and pick up whatever you want. Circle K is also working with Standard Cognition on a cashierless convenience store in Phoenix, the companies announced this month.
Delaware North is testing out a stadium storefront that can manage big spikes in customers coming in by getting rid of checkouts too.
Added to that, Mastercard is working with White Castle on a cash-free drive thru idea. You’d need to register with the restaurant first and keep your credit card on file. After that when you drive up, White Castle will offer you a personalized menu based on your past orders, and you’ll be charged automatically for your food. It already piloted these personalized menus with Sonic last year.
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