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4 frictionless shopping tools to boost your bottom line

In January 2018, the retail industry was abuzz over the opening of the first Amazon Go store in Seattle. This store was the first to use groundbreaking shop-and-walk-out technology.

That store opening, according to Convenience Store News U.S. editorial director Don Longo, prompted a growing roster of convenience store chains to implement similar cashierless payment solutions.

“Frictionless engagement is now a competitive imperative for convenience store retailers,” Longo said during a recent Convenience Store News/Paytronix Systems Inc. webinar exploring frictionless checkout.

To date, several store chains including convenience giant 7-Eleven Inc., are testing some type of frictionless checkout in their stores.

Advancements in mobile devices have paved the way for the current innovation around the way consumers shop and pay.

Kimberly Otocki, convenience store marketing specialist for Paytronix Systems, noted that mobile is a huge component of a consumers’ day-to-day lives.

“They are spending a lot of time on their mobile devices and we see it day to day because we know when we walk down the street or our customers come into our stores, they most likely have their mobile phones out and are using them,” she said.

Mobile has become so big that the average person checks their phone 157 times a day. In addition, 90% of consumers use their phones inside stores while shopping.

Smartphones have changed the way we interact, the way we experience life and, because mobile devices enable consumers to get what they want in an instant, convenience views have shifted as well, Otocki said, calling it “the now factor.”

The numbers speak to that. For example:

  • 86% of shoppers avoid going into stores with long lines;
  • 74%t of shoppers will shop at a competitor rather than a store with a long checkout line; and
  • 41% of shoppers will change their minds about a purchase if there is a long checkout line.

“That’s a lot of customers who will gladly avoid going to your store if they know they are going to be greeted with a long line or if they go in and see a long line, they will purposely avoid it,” she said. “We want to make sure our line speeds are down to make sure they continue shopping with us.”

This ongoing shift in consumer expectations and their definition of convenience is driving frictionless engagement.

“Ultimately, if we are able to meet that frictionless experience — that great experience for our customers, so they don’t have to wait in line and they can get all of their goods and head on the road — then that means we are going to get higher profits,” Otocki said. “Our top line will increase because we are bringing more people into our stores and, hopefully, getting them to spend more money.”

Amazon is the “true pioneer” of the frictionless shopping experience, according to Otocki. “[Amazon has] shaped industries, destroyed industries and changed customers’ expectations to the point that we don’t really have any other option beside meeting that frictionless need that has been set by Amazon.”

Amazon knows exactly who its customers are. The company has been collecting data, honing it and trying to figure out exactly what makes each of its customers tick. And it uses that intel to keep customers coming back.

GET AHEAD BEFORE BEING LEFT BEHIND

Convenience stores need to be frictionless in order to compete, Otocki advised.

While some c-stores have already begun to adopt frictionless solutions, such as implementing mobile checkout or scan-and-go technology, more must be done in the convenience channel.

“We need to get ahead of it now before we get swamped out of the game,” Otocki said.

Types of frictionless options currently in the convenience channel include:

1. Mobile ordering. According to Otocki, this is a great opportunity to bridge the gap between the physical store and the world beyond its four walls. Mobile ordering is also “super rich” with customer data, she said.

2. Scan-and-go technology. Calling this “the ultimate level of convenience,” Otocki foresees this taking off a bit further down the road. It is still expensive at this point, she noted.

3. Connected cars. This service provides a greater level of frictionless checkout right where most c-store customers are — at the fuel pump.  A mix of online ordering and grab-and-go options with connected cars can bring those fuel-only customers inside the store, she explained.

4. Delivery. Service via delivery allows the c-store to connect with more customers. “How do we get to that last mile?” Otocki posed.

She did acknowledge that frictionless shopping options can be daunting and challenging from an operations standpoint and a capital standpoint, and will require convenience stores to change how they do business.

“While there are a lot of different technologies out there and a lot of different things we can implement, all of these things are going to take a lot of time to really go through and make sure they are done right,” she said.

Once c-store operators choose the right option for their business, they can use frictionless methods to gather customer data and more effectively market to customers. Such methods include:

  • Credit card token and matching;
  • Mobile payments with NFC;
  • Text to join;
  • Mobile apps;
  • In-store kiosks;
  • Physical loyalty cards; and
  • Reverse enrolment.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.


What convenience store operators can learn from Amazon Go

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 10.29.53 PMIn September 2018, Amazon opened its fourth Amazon Go store, this time in Chicago.  If convenience store operators assumed there would be long lines of people eagerly awaiting the store opening, they would be wrong.

Instead, there was quite a bit of hesitancy among potential shoppers. Many just had too many questions and concerns about the store to rush right in.  Flashing through lots of minds were questions such as these:

  • How does the store work?
  • Will there be anyone there to help me?
  • Do I need a credit card or do they take cash?
  • Will I look like a fool trying to figure everything out?

Eventually, Chicagoans bought in.  According to the Chicago Tribune, they discovered a store selling “grab-and-go food items designed to let busy shoppers skip the checkout line, and just walk out.” In fact, Amazon calls the experience of shopping in these stores “walk out shopping.”

Walk out shopping begins as soon as someone enters the store, when they scan the Amazon Go app.  The app includes necessary shopper information, including the user’s credit card for charges.

However, a lot is going on behind the scenes that shoppers likely are not aware of, and Amazon has kept tight lips about much of the background technology in these outlets.

We do know that the when customers place something in their shopping basket or cart, motion detectors are triggered to charge the customer’s credit card account, but some other theoretical functions of the technology include:

  • Facial recognition software that maps a shopper’s facial expressions and records the moment when, for instance, a shopper’s face “lights up” upon seeing a product they like.
  • Evaluation of shopping patterns and habits, such as how long it takes shoppers to shop, whether most shoppers walk clockwise or counterclockwise through the store and why they shop as they do.
  • The determination of how often shoppers read food labels that  indicate the ingredients used to make the many grab-and-go food items marketed in the store.

So, what is really going on here?  Are these stores designed for shopping or collecting shopper data?  It appears it is some of both.

Determining how shoppers shop could help Amazon determine how many people must staff each store.  Technology also helps food service operators, especially those providing grab-and-go food items, to quickly learn which products makes a shopper’s face light up. If their product is greeted with a frown instead of a smile, it gives them an opportunity to do something about it.

For example, what if those frowns are because a food item has too much fat, cholesterol or sodium in it?

It is likely, over time, that convenience store operators will get more insight into the shopper data collected at these Amazon Go store locations.

The data collected will not only help Amazon, but convenience store operators as well. Operators will better understand how shoppers shop. If a shopper, for instance, disapproves of ingredients in a grab-and-go food item, operators can quickly and easily implement a recipe—and subsequent label—change with an assist from the store’s kitchen automation system.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Back to basics: Amazon opens first Go store that accepts cash

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 9.59.51 PMAmazon launched its high-tech Go convenience store a year ago, where shoppers can pull items off the shelf and walk out.

Now it’s adding a decidedly low-tech feature: accepting cash.

Its new store that opened in New York City this month is the first Amazon Go store to do so. At its other shops, customers can only enter with an app that links to a credit card or an Amazon account.

The company, facing a backlash from those who believe cashless stores discriminate against the poor, confirmed last month that it was working on a way to accept dollar bills and coins.

In the new store, employees will swipe those who want to pay by cash through the turnstile entrance. After shoppers grab what they want off the shelves, an employee will scan each item with a mobile device, take the cash, give customers their change from a cash drawer and hand them a receipt.

Cameron Janes, who oversees Amazon’s stores, says the way it accepts cash could change in the future, but declined to give details.

“This is how we’re starting,” he says. “We’re going to learn from customers on what works and what doesn’t work and then iterate and improve it over time.”

A small but growing number of stores around the country have gone cash-free. But some activists and politicians say that discriminates against people who don’t have a bank account.

Philadelphia became the first city to ban cashless stores earlier this year, and New Jersey passed a statewide ban soon after. San Francisco will soon require brick-and-mortar retailers to take cash as payment, and a similar law is being considered in New York City.

It’s not clear how many shoppers will skip the app and want to pay by cash at Amazon Go. The New York store, the first in the city, is in Brookfield Place, a high-end shopping mall and office complex that houses a Gucci store and office workers from banks and credit card companies. Amazon expects many of its customers to be workers looking to pick up a lunchtime salad or sandwich, people who live in the area or tourists visiting the nearby World Trade Center.

A line quickly formed outside of the store Tuesday and Amazon employees were allowing shoppers and the curious inside only when others left.

Amazon didn’t say when its 11 other Go stores will start accepting cash.


Amazon opens small concept Whole Foods store in NYC

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 3.28.55 PMAmazon-owned Whole Foods, which revealed it was abandoning its 365 concept and looking to other formats to expand its footprint, recently opened a Whole Foods Market Daily Shop in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. The new concept is located next door to a full-size Whole Foods Market.

The 2,500-square-foot store, which is open seven days a week from 6 a.m.-11 p.m., focuses on grab-and-go items and a self-checkout kiosk (staffed checkouts are also available), making it easy for the on-the-go consumer to grab coffee or tea, fresh juices, a selection of prepared foods including breakfast bowls and oatmeal, and lunch and dinner options such as paninis, half chickens, salmon and sides. The store also features a build-your-own-acai-bowl bar.

Daily Shop also highlights local products such as Gotham Greens pesto and salad dressings, Balthazar breads and New Yorker Bagels. Other highlights include:

  • A produce section featuring seasonal citrus, mangoes, avocados and, bananas, along with cut fruit and luau bowls in the coolers
  • A selection of flowers including potted orchids and plants
  • A mochi freezer with popular flavours such as vanilla, mango, strawberry and chocolate
  • Two-dedicated grocery aisles highlighting single-serve convenience-based and everyday essentials – and even a tins of pet food for shoppers’ furry friends
  • A small Whole Body section featuring toothbrushes, shampoos, deodorant, cough drops, candles and travel-sized products
  • Prime Member Deals highlighted throughout the store with blue weekly deal and yellow sale signage

This story appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.


Amazon-Go-walking-in_500-x-400

Checkout-free Amazon Go store finally opens to the public

Amazon Go offers ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made by company chefs and local kitchens and bakeries; a selection of grocery essentials ranging from staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates... Read more