Cashierless Stores: Mobile Payments Wave of the Future or Temporary Fad?

June 28, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

While self-service cashierless stores aren’t exactly new, the notion of full stores, complete with full product lines, being utterly without cashier presence is a bit new. The concept has gained a lot of ground in recent years, however, to the point where not only are people wondering if this could catch on, but even that regulators are getting involved. A panel recently staged at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Dallas illustrated some of the issues surrounding this new technology.

The self-service concept goes back decades, even before vending machines, to the days of the first American automat, a kind of restaurant built around what amounted to a post office box-style system of food; insert coins into a slot, turn a knob, open the door covering the food in question and remove the food contained therein. Oh, sure, there were still humans involved in this operation; they made change, prepared food, inserted completed dishes in the slot and monitored the whole affair. But that key junction point—between human and food—was pretty much completely automated, and this back in the early 1900s.

Yet with the rise of the cashierless store comes regulator interest. What about the folks who pay exclusively by cash? Are they tossed out on their collective ear, unable to buy anything? Is that discrimination? Is that illegal? In some places, the answer to those last two seems to be “yes” and “yes,” as cashierless stores are the focus of new laws and rules.

Increasingly, however, the issue of a completely cashierless store seems to be falling under too much scrutiny to stand. This is giving rise to more of a hybridized approach, allowing those who want a cashierless experience to get it—and let’s be honest, when we’ve been forced into a five-deep line of shoppers with full carts while carrying just two items, a cashierless experience certainly can seem attractive—while those who don’t want it or can’t have it have access to the more standard approach.

Such a measure goes a long way, and it gives us all a point to remember: cashierless options like mobile payments can be great, as long as they’re options. When you try to build a whole platform around them, that’s when the trouble starts.