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Here's what consumers think about autonomous checkout, and what that means for Amazon

  • A recent survey highlighted consumer interest in autonomous checkout tech.
  • This interest raised the question of whether the technology poses a threat to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.
  • Insider Intelligence publishes hundreds of insights, charts, and forecasts on the Payments & Commerce industry. Learn more about becoming a client.

A recent survey from Piplsay highlighted consumer opinions on checkout-free retail tech; here are the main takeaways:

Retail Sales
US consumers are warming up to checkout-free solutions.
Insider Intelligence

  • US consumers are warming up to checkout-free solutions such as Amazon's Just Walk Out tech. The AI-powered solution allows consumers to walk into a store, pick out their desired items, and leave without having to stop to pay. While only 28% of US consumers have visited an Amazon Go store, out of those that have, 54% described the experience as excellent while another 35% described it as good. Notably, more than half (57%) of the 30,000 survey respondents said they'd be excited to see an Amazon Go or other AI-enabled store come to their neighborhood.
  • And they feel this tech could be a threat to big-box brick-and-mortar retailers. Nearly 60% of consumers think Amazon Go will be a threat to big-box retailers like Walmart and Kroger, both of which don't currently have any stores retrofitted with autonomous checkout solutions. Both retailers do offer self-checkout options in-store, but while this type of tech aims to speed up the checkout process, it requires more work on the consumer end, which adds friction to the payment process.

The autonomous checkout space is heating up, but Insider Intelligence thinks there's still a ways to go before the checkout-free stores can challenge traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. The retail solutions are becoming more popular than ever thanks in part to growing demand for contactless payments and the need for frictionless in-store commerce brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic.

And this is demonstrated by the increasing amount of activity within the space in the last couple months: Amazon's Just Walk Out tech landed in more airport retailers, and AiFi recently expanded in China. Further, Standard just secured $150 million in funding to scale its solution. However, most autonomous checkout offerings are currently being rolled out in smaller format stores, such as convenience stores, and have yet to make a full debut into larger store formats. For this reason, the likes of Amazon Go are unlikely to pose a major threat to Walmart and Kroger at the moment.

But as checkout-free tech continues to mature, traditional brick-and-mortar stores may want to begin thinking about implementing an autonomous checkout solution. Although the pandemic helped thrust checkout-free tech into the spotlight, it's very likely that the tech will stick around after the crisis since most pandemic-driven consumer payment and shopping habits are expected to remain.

Consumers will likely continue to want a fast and frictionless checkout experience, even post-pandemic, when there won't be any health risk involved with indoor shopping. And this consumer demand might lead more retailers, including Walmart and Kroger, to eventually integrate an autonomous checkout solution into their stores to avoid falling behind smaller competitors.

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