Cashier-less checkout is gaining traction as stores do their best to keep their customers and employees safe and healthy. 

We’ve all seen the measures stores are taking to make sure customers stay 6 feet apart while shopping. One-way aisles, fewer shoppers and face masks are now part of every consumer’s shopping routine. And while some stores are upping their game when it comes to limiting person-to-person contact, other retailers have had contactless methods in place for years. You just might not be aware of your options.

Amazon Go stores have gotten all the attention when it comes to cashier-less checkouts because of their innovative “Just Walk Out concept” that has been available to the public since 2018. In 26 stores spread across Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Seattle, customers use an app to gain entry into the store like going through a subway turnstile. Once inside the store, tons of cameras and sensors (similar to those used in self-driving cars) track every movement a shopper makes. The stores offer convenient breakfast and lunch options and a wide variety of snacks to grab and go. The technology knows what items a customer picks up and if they are placed back on the shelf. When a shopper is finished, they can simply walk out of the store and the app will automatically charge the customer’s Amazon account and show them a receipt. 

The company opened its first full-fledged grocery store several months ago on Pike Street in Seattle. Using the same app and technology, customers can find a full array of grocery items in the 10,000 square foot space. And with Amazon’s recent announcement that it will make this “Just Walk Out” technology available to other retailers, we can expect it will be coming soon to a store near you.

In case you don’t live in one of Amazon Go’s four available cities, another high-tech checkout option at one of Sam’s Club’s 599 locations may be more attainable. The warehouse store has made a “Scan & Go” feature available to shoppers since 2016. While it doesn’t allow you to “just walk out,” it does let you check out without ever standing in line at a register. Download the store’s app and set up your account, including a payment method. As you add items to your real-life cart, scan the item with the app’s camera, and it’ll place it in your virtual cart. The app helpfully subtotals as you go in case you’re trying to stick to a budget. When you’re ready to check out, pay through the app and then show the QR code that pops up to the employee as you leave. 

Customers are using the app more than ever before since the pandemic hit.

“As we all focus on safety and social distancing, Sam’s Club has seen the amount of new Scan & Go users grow by 4x-5x times what it was before COVID-19,” according to a company news release.

7-Eleven is testing a similar concept using algorithms, camera-based tools and predictive technology at its Irving, Texas, headquarters. Only employees using an app can shop at the store for now. The 7-Eleven employees use the app to enter the store, scan barcodes as they shop and view their receipt. 

“Our goal is to exceed consumers’ expectations for faster, easier transactions and a seamless shopping experience,” according to Mani Suri, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief information officer. He says the technology 7-Eleven is using was custom-built in-house and creates a frictionless shopping experience.

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One 7-Eleven store in Australia is testing this technology with the public. Stephen Eyears, the company’s head of strategy, innovation and business development wrote an article explaining that convenience is the goal. 

“Our stores are very busy and popular so we are looking at ways to reduce the amount of time customers have to spend in store,” Eyears wrote.

For those not as comfortable using their phones to take care of the checkout process, Walmart is testing a different type of cashier-less store. A Walmart Superstore in Fayetteville, Arkansas, will no longer have the traditional conveyor belts at its registers. A company spokesperson told a local news station, KNWA, that the only option shoppers will have at Store #359 will be self-checkout. Walmart said it’s a strategy to limit personal interaction and to speed up checkout times.

If you’re doing your best to keep your distance from retail workers for their safety and yours, stores are developing lots of options to help you out.

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