Autonomous checkout has taken another step forward, this time in Japan. New Zealand company Imagr has signed with H2O retailing company to conduct a pilot deployment of their autonomous checkout technology at the stores outlet. Japan presents a particularly unique opportunity for two reasons: labor shortages and an aging population. Together, these factors present staffing challenges for grocers. Autonomous checkouts pose an attractive solution to both of these rising problems.
Moreover, Imagr’s unique and easy-to-deploy tech could fit very well into Japan’s marketplace. Imagr’s product comes in the form of a trolley basket. The customer picks out items and places them into the trolley, just as they would otherwise. Imagr’s trolleys have lighting and camera features that detect the item.
Compared to competitors, Imagr uses less hardware, thereby making it easier for stores to onboard in general. In addition, Imagr allows customers using their trolley to switch to a traditional POS checkout if they choose to. As autonomous checkouts become more popular, some customers and retailers may have apprehension adopting these new systems. Imagr stands as a sweet spot, having both efficient technology while also enabling customers to lean on their traditionally favored checkout methods.
The following is an additional “Key Takeaway” from the Forbes article:
Where Covid-19 has accelerated many digital transformation plans and re-designed the new shopper journey, Imagr has taken into consideration of the more operable route to scale. “Our immediate focus is on markets where shopping behavior is more frequent.” shares Chomley, pointing towards APAC markets with smaller baskets but higher frequency shops.
The hindrance of unmanned stores has always linked back to the costs of set-up, though also believed to pay-off in the future eliminating labor costs in-store. Yet with recent developments and technology advancements, consumers have also become more privacy-aware while being guarded by the government’s protection. It is also heavily dependent on the market’s behavior where China has normalized the Big Brother act, but the West is still hesitant towards. With modular carts and computer vision to only detect products – not people – this may be the most viable way in creating the unmanned store of the future.
Overview by James O’Brien, Research Analyst at Mercator Advisory Group