Zippin boss: Checkout-free retail poised for great things
Zippin this week reopened its checkout-free concept store in San Francisco. RTIH got the lowdown from founder and CEO Krishna Motukuri.
RTIH: Last summer, Zippin opened a demo concept store in downtown San Francisco. Since then, you have been busy working on the technology and remodelling the space ahead of the store officially reopening to the public this week. What can you tell us about the work you have been doing?
KM: Our new store provides a slightly larger footprint, and we’ve extended the hours of operation to Monday to Friday, 8am to 2pm, to best serve the needs of our local community. It is a great showcase for us with prospective customers to show how the technology works and its ability to handle busy environments.
When we first opened last year, the store was more of a demo lab with visible the wires and other technology. Now, it looks like just any other store, with the technology working 100% behind the scenes to provide a frictionless shopping experience for consumers.
RTIH: What was the user feedback from the first trial of the store?
KM: We’ve always received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Most were thrilled primarily by the ease and speed of getting their lunch so quickly. In fact, one local TV reporter taped a segment where she showed herself grabbing lunch in a timed 16-second trip in and out of the store. Prospective customers of our technology have also been impressed by its ability to work in busy environments and edge-case situations.
Sometimes shoppers had questions about the accuracy of the system in certain more complicated situations (for example, when taking things and putting them back or putting them back in a different place in the store, etc.) or when more than a few people came into the store at the same time. But these doubts were put to rest when they saw first hand how accurate our system is when they walked out and viewed their receipt.
"Even though we are in the earliest stages of deployment now, the interest sparked by Amazon Go’s rapid expansion has lit a fire"
RTIH: Although autonomous checkout stores have been heavily hyped, there is only a handful of them today. Do you think this space will remain a niche thing or cross over into the mainstream? And if it does cross over, will Amazon just dominate as it so often does, with its Amazon Go offering?
KM: By all predictions (not just ours), checkout-free retail is poised to take over just about everywhere in the world, and it’s just a matter of time. In fact, Juniper Research has estimated that the fast-growing smart store technology market will generate more than $78 billion in annual transaction revenue by 2022, up from an expected $9.2 billion this year.
We believe that consumer demand will be the ultimate driver of this trend, and even though we are in the earliest stages of deployment now, the interest sparked by Amazon Go’s rapid expansion has lit a fire.
It’s estimated that Americans spend up to 100 hours a year standing in line, and most people agree that’s just a plain waste of time when there are options that enable them to zip in, grab what they need, and zip right back out … without any lines at all.
Retailers don’t want to be left behind as this wave hits, and those who hope to compete with Amazon to serve this demand for frictionless shopping are eager to see how they can affordably do so with technology such as ours. At Zippin, we’ve experienced overwhelming inbound interest from retailers around the world that has only been accelerating interest in recent months.
The retailers who do actually invest in this next-generation retail solution will be able to compete and thrive.
RTIH: There has been something of a backlash in the States against checkout-free stores that don’t accept cash. What is your take on this issue?
KM: As a technology provider, we are committed to supporting a wide array of payment choices, including cash. Retailers can decide which payment modes to offer to their shoppers, and will be able to comply with all local laws pertaining to payments and privacy.
RTIH: What else can we expect from Zippin in 2019?
KM: You can expect to see our technology deployed in many retail brands around the world. While we haven’t announced any deals yet, I can say we are working with a number of pilot customers.