The launch of Amazon’s checkout-free grocery store, Amazon Go, earlier this year made headlines, but most importantly it set a new standard for retailers. As convenience continues to be a top concern for consumers, retailers are innovating their products and services in order to fit into the busy lifestyles of shoppers. Technology giant, Microsoft Corporation, plans on beating Amazon at their own game with checkout-free technology.
Although the technology is still currently under development, Microsoft has already started speaking with major international retailers such as Walmart Inc in regards to potential partnerships. Walmart recently abandoned their previous cashier-less checkout technology “Scan & Go,” a mobile app that allows shoppers to scan and pay for their products using an in-store scanning device, due to low participation. This might be because shoppers have an extra step when using this app; they would have to physically scan each item they select in-store, which might be a hassle for consumers looking for the utmost convenience. However, the check-out free technology that Microsoft is working on is autonomous, meaning that shoppers can carry on with their shopping as usual without having to do an extra step.
Just as Amazon Go utilizes cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence to monitor and charge shoppers, Microsoft’s new technology enables grocers to keep pace with the latest in retail technology. However, the company is still in the process of finalizing their innovative product. A major challenge that the company is facing is making their technology affordable for grocers. Currently, the company is displaying a basic version of their automated checkout at their Retail Experience Center in Redmond.
However, it looks like Microsoft is still trying to catch up with Amazon Go. They are making progress such as hiring a computer vision specialist from Amazon Go. The specialist has already developed a way to attach smart cameras to shopping carts to track purchases. Additionally, the company is looking into ways to incorporate smartphones into their shopping experience. Despite their progress, Microsoft still has some ways to go before launching their checkout-free technology nationwide.
This is no surprise since it took Amazon four years before they could test out their “Just Walk Out” technology at their Seattle Campus in 2016. After the testing, they collected information for more than a year before opening their first public store in Seattle. The launch was a success and now Amazon plans on opening two more Amazon Go stores in San Francisco and Chicago. However, the company is still working to improve their services, according to Amazon’s Vice President, Dilip Kumar. The VP told Reuters that they are working on improving their computers by training them to identify products and activities with minimal information.
As Amazon continues to innovate in the grocery industry, other retailers seem to be playing catchup. However, with the help of one of the world’s largest tech companies, grocers might be able to make checkout free technology a common grocery experience. With cashier being one of the most commonly held jobs in the US, automated checkout technology is worth $50 billion, according to Loup Ventures, a research-driven venture capital firm in Minneapolis.
“This is the future of checking out for convenience and grocery stores,” said Gene Munster, Head of Research at Loop Ventures.