The autonomous retail sector is booming, and brick-and-mortars are getting curious about how to free up their employees’ time and foster new experiences to lure customers in store.
Retail technology platforms that may have been overlooked before the pandemic are now coming into focus as businesses begin to understand their true value. Using a combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, and big data, a number of startups have started positioning their platforms as possible solutions to the labor shortages that retailers and restaurants are facing in 2021. Mobile ordering kiosks, autonomous checkout systems, and even machine vision algorithms are all being used to help businesses greet customers, restock shelves, and even clean messy areas with more efficiency.
Convenience stores have been the first frontier for autonomous checkout, with grocery to follow. While today, it’s still rare to find autonomous checkout in stores, I think that within two years, people will have at least one store in their neighborhood that offers the technology. And within five years, autonomous checkout will be common and preferred by the majority of shoppers. While Covid may have accelerated the shift, this technology is here to stay.
If autonomous checkout systems ever go mainstream, it will be because retailers finally figured out how to effectively harness in-store cameras to determine where customers are and what items they’re holding in real-time. Reaching that goal has proven elusive to AI technology providers thus far, but a San Francisco-based startup called Standard Cognition is hoping that its recent acquisition of Explorer.ai, a mapping and computer vision firm, will be the catalyst that’s necessary to accelerate growth and expand into new retail verticals.