Unmanned 24/7 Stores - An Overview of Concepts and Technologies

Unmanned 24/7 Stores - An Overview of Concepts and Technologies

May 5, 2021 - Maria Tagwerker-Sturm

An emerging trend is currently hitting the grocery industry: small unmanned 24/7 stores. Also known as container boxes, mini/micro stores, digital self-service stores, cashier-less supermarkets, automated micro market, Just Walk Out, Grab’n’Go, …

  • These container boxes or small stores offer the most important assortment for customers’ daily needs, usually less than 1000 items.
  • They are placed either at high-frequency locations such as train stations, gas stations, hospitals, and universities or in rural areas without local suppliers.
  • They are digitized and unmanned, meaning they are not operated by people. There is no staff such as cashiers or waiters.

This means they can be open 24 hours 7 days a week, provided there are no legal restrictions.

Types of unmanned stores

Just-Walk-Out

The most well-known just-walk-out technology is Amazon’s “Amazon Go“. In Amazon Go stores, customers simply take products and walk out. Technologies such as computer vision (cameras) and sensors identify who puts which product in the shopping basket. Amazon already operates about 30 stores in the U.S. and UK.

One challenge of just-walk-out concepts is the high cost of technology, as hardware requirements for the stores make economies of scale difficult to achieve.

There is also criticism of the compatibility of Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology in relation to the EU’s data protection regulation, GDPR.

Stores with vending machines

Oversized vending machines are also an emerging trend. Either customers buy directly at vending machines put up in a store or place orders in advance via their smartphone app or at a terminal. The goods are then automatically picked behind the scenes using robotics and can then be collected at a deposit box.

Here again, the CAPEX investment required for hardware is enormous and the technology still limits the size of the assortment. The advantage is that theft can be relatively well prevented.

Self-Checkout Stores

Currently, the popularity of unmanned 24/7 stores with self-checkout is increasing, either via Scan & Go smartphone app or via self-checkout terminals. The advantage is that hardware and technology costs are comparatively low.

Challenges exist with checks for purchasing age-restricted products and putting the right amount of loss prevention methods in place.

Autonomous Store

Technologies for unmanned self-checkout stores

  1. Checkout/payment with Scan & Go app and self-checkout terminals
    Apps such as Scan & Go, and self-checkout terminals are implemented as checkout solutions. With Scan & Go solutions like shopreme Scan & Go, shoppers scan goods with their smartphone and then pay directly within the app. Alternatively, there are self-checkout terminals where customers can scan the products and pay via various payment methods.
  2. Anti-theft/video surveillance and identification
    To avoid shrinkage, psychological and technological components are strongly interwoven. Therefore, to enter the autonomous store, customers have to register in advance, scan a unique personal code (smartphone app), their debit- or credit card to open the store and are thus not completely anonymous. Highly visible camera and screen systems in the store for monitoring, act as another psychological deterrent.
  3. Optimization of assortment- and inventory management
    Since these stores can only carry a limited range of products, they require a balanced, well monitored assortment at the individual locations. According to the demand, the assortment must be optimized to achieve maximum sales.
    Besides the product range, autonomous store concepts also require transparent stock management so that much sought-after products are available at all time. Since there is no possibility of restocking on-site, the inventory must be extremely well planned and cost-optimized. This requires an ERP system for inventory management including data analysis to optimize logistics and maximize the store’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Conclusion

Unmanned 24/7 stores are an important trend and bring convenience to the local supply of fast-moving products such as groceries or drugstore items. This way,unmanned store operators can offer their customers to buy products for their daily needs frictionless, at any time and anywhere. Digital technologies enable various store concepts to meet customers’ demand optimally and operate stores economically.

Would you like to learn more? Contact our “24/7 Unmanned Stores” experts at shopreme: contact@shopreme.com