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The Dream of Cashierless Shopping

While some of us may be proud that we just recently perfected our technology for credit card processing for small business, many of the biggest stores are ramping up their efforts to remove friction for purchasing, which includes removing the cashier from the picture. The surprising thing is that the technology is there for us.

Why get rid of the cashier?

The main arguments for optimizing people out of the transaction is, well, efficiency. Stores that can process purchases touchlessly will go faster, and result in more sales per unit of time. Naturally, the big box retailers are also dreaming of the savings from hourly payroll when individual employees can be minimized, or even eliminated from the process.

How it works

NFC (near field communication) is the main technological actor here. This is the same tech behind today’s smart wallet payments. But in a cashierless store, the turnstiles, inventory and baskets mark what is selected, and automatically charge the customer. Thanks to this no-touch tech solution, cashierless stores may actually be a solution to the problems of shoplifting.

What needs to happen before:

First of all, smart wallet buy-in needs to increase. While each year sees an uptick in the number of people that comfortably use smart phones to pay with one or another NFC-powered mobile wallets, this is the most critical hurdle for the roll-out of the cashierless system, because in essence, a person won’t be allowed to shop without their smart wallet on and functioning.

Second, operational hiccups need to be dealt with. Just as with self-checkout at grocery stores, there still needs to be dedicated employees on-site to take care of any issues that come up. Thus, it’s not that the need for employees will be eliminated; there will just be a shifting redefinition of the human’s role in the job.

Another limitation is the type of store that this model is designed for: essentially, it will only make sense for stores that sell things that customers typically won’t have questions about. That makes it a logical fit for groceries, toiletries, and staple that are continually purchased. For now, at least, there doesn’t seem to be movement toward making it easier to cut out the human in more nuanced purchases, where a shop attendant’s information can help.

Keep your ears open.

At the moment, the technology and infrastructure that is needed to make a store cashierless is prohibitively expensive. Amazon’s experimental cashless and cashierless store required about $1 million, in hardware alone. As the big boys learn from their experiments, small businesses interested in the best payment processing can look on, and wait for the approaching time that such technology will be reasonable.

Still, there are unique ways your business can progress. Credit card processing for small business is obvious, but also NFC payments and other software solutions perfectly reasonable ways to catch your business up with the latest technology.