Walking into a shop and walking out with an item without needing to stop to check out will be the norm in shops all around the world within the next 10 years, says the founder of one of the United States' leading tech start-ups.
Standard Cognition, which uses artificial technology and machine vision technology to enable autonomous shopping allows customers to shop and pay without any scanning, stopping to check out or waiting in line, is deployed in three stores in the United States and two in Japan.
Its technology will be deployed to a further seven US-based stores in the first-half of the year, and the company, founded in 2017, has bold plans to roll it out worldwide.
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The high-tech retailing technology allows shoppers to walk into a shop, take what they like, and walk out. Payment for the items is instantaneous and comes via computers on the ceiling and an app, similarly to what is already being done in about 20 Amazon Go stores.
This payment method is not common in the US, at least not yet, says Michael Suswal, co-founder and chief operating officer of Standard Cognition.
He believes everyone in the world would have shopped at an autonomous store at least once within the next five years, and within 10 years it will be expected by shoppers.
"Certainly within 10 years, I think retailers will be behind the times and at threat of going out of business if you're not doing it," Suswal told the Herald at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the company announced its partnership with Boston baseball team Worcester Red Sox's sporting venues.
Suswal says the technology looks at an item in the same way as a shopper does, and it gets better and more accurate the more it is used.
The biggest challenge to rolling out the technology far and wide was the back end technology such as the cameras and GPU which needed to work without teams of engineers watching them, once that was automated.
Standard Cognition is not currently working with any New Zealand retailers, though Suswal said it had been contacted by some, and others in Oceania.
"We've been restricted on how far we have wanted to expand and in what regions but our goal is to bring this to every store in the world."
Next year would be Standard Cognition's "year of scale" where it planned to roll out its technology to thousands of stores, says Suswal.
5G meets retail
Jason Elliott of Nokia says 5G technology will enable businesses to scale, and offer retailers the chance to offer a convenient experience for shoppers.
"From a consumer perspective, as you walk in AR will play a huge role.
"AR will become very much more progressive in the future, both for the consumer to interact with products and services, and also sales and support staff as well to have a hands-free environment," says Elliott.
Artificial intelligence, computer vision, facial recognition and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors will come together to make a "frictionless shopping experience".
Before you even get into a store, a person will be ready to serve you. The technology will enable better inventory management and less floor staff.
"Up to this point we have used 4G to enable last mile connectivity, business continuity, now, being able to use 5G will make business viable because 5G gives you a lot faster speeds, a lot more capacity in the network - it is something that is designed for enterprise and business perks.
"5G isn't just designed for high-speed broadband ... 5G is like rocket fuel for all that has been around for a while - artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, computer vision, all these things will be a lot more pervasive in the future."
Elliott says the roll out of 5G will enable a shift from the two dimensional world to a three dimensional world.
The role of the physical store
The advent of the smartphone has accelerated the pace of change.
Analogue shoppers will continue to digitalise, says Xian Wang, global content director at US-based digital and retail insights company Edge by Ascential.
"We're going to be able to address a lot of members of the population that five, 10 years ago we weren't able to do. With the rate that digital is bringing consumers online in China alone, there is going to be an additional 400 million consumers that might be able to access in the next four, five years ago," says Wang.
But she says as the online spend increases, the role of the physical store still remains important, consider it a physical reminder of a retailer's existence. "There is a huge role for the store to play offline and in the experience, experiential retail that e-commerce doesn't necessarily fulfil."
Wang says this was evident by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's physical store expansion with its Hema supermarkets, and Amazon with its acquisition of retail chain Whole Foods, and the introduction and roll-out of Amazon Go stores.
"As stores evolve, how can they become hubs to help shoppers and consumers connect with each other? On experiential, it's a fantastic opportunity for retailers to connect shoppers with their brands.
"On frictionless, it's always going to be about table space and how to make it as friction-less as possible for the shopper to part with their money; whether it is click and collect, better fulfilment for the store or walk-out technology, and curated - what's going to differentiate and keep the shopper coming back, such as personalised."
What comes next?
Voice and voice assistants will open up within retail, along with personalisation the coming years. As technology advances, in theory it should progress to become more invisible, says Dean DeBiase, chairman of Revive Inc.
"We are all enabled by technology ... but the best technology is invisible, it is working to make our lives easier. Right now we are still slaves to our devices, we have 50 apps on our phones, [but] eventually these devices will start doing stuff more for us.
"If [a technology] is not making a customer's journey easier or more emotional, then consider it something you might want to delay until is more helpful and invisible."
Jon Stine of the Open Voice Network says personalisation will become an increasing strategy for retailing in the next decade. As personalisation becomes more commonplace, he says, trust between the shopper and the brand storing a person's data will need to be worked through.
Technology will allow retailers to learn from consumers' shopping behaviour and as a result provide personalised recommendations, incentivising brands and items based on preferences. Predictive model will be widely used to look at similar households to analyse what they are buying and recommend products before a customer needs or wants it.
Experiential retail, will continue and become important as consumers look for more than just a transaction, as a result brand activations and events will become more common.
"Everything is about personalisation, that is where the future is headed," says Amy Herrick, director of merchandising at supermarket chain Meijer.
"Hyper-personalisation at scale is going to continue to evolve disruptively."