In the future, consumers won't have to stop to check out at stores. There are two types of stores featuring autonomous checkout technology that will make this possible:
Fully autonomous checkout stores. This type of shopping experience — employed at stores like Amazon Go — begins with consumers identifying themselves upon entering a store with a QR code, credit card, or other payment option. As consumers shop, the store's technology tracks the items they pick up, creates a virtual cart, charges them accordingly for their items when they exit, and sends them a receipt immediately or soon thereafter.
Hybrid autonomous checkout stores. In hybrid stores, consumers can take part in the fully autonomous experience detailed above or stop at a kiosk to pay before exiting instead of identifying themselves at the entrance. Either way, they won't need to scan their items because the store will still track their selections.
Autonomous checkout will change the game for payments companies, making it essential for them to determine their role in these stores. The new payments process will require consumers to choose their payment method earlier in the process, and will render some hardware — like point-of-sale (POS) terminals — irrelevant. Payments companies need to figure out how to fit into the new shopping experience.
The technology will see wider adoption from retailers over the next five years. Although the technology is still in its infancy, Business Insider Intelligence forecasts that the number of stores employing autonomous checkout will climb at a 75% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 350 at the end of 2018 to 10,000 by 2024, with the tech being found everywhere from convenience stores to grocery stores. And while 10,000 stores is small compared with the millions of stores worldwide, it's likely a large enough sample number to build retailers' trust in the technology, leading to adoption by millions of stores in the near future.
Payments companies should begin positioning now to catch the autonomous checkout wave. By moving into the space early, processors, hardware manufacturers, and other payments companies can secure critical first-mover advantages, such as partnerships. This will give them more power over the autonomous checkout process, allowing them to give their equipment or payment methods an edge over competitors'.