Visit a major retail store recently? Chances are you noticed some changes at the checkout line. There were probably more self-checkout choices and fewer cashiers.
Retail technology is continually evolving in order to boost efficiency and save money for merchants. A major change in recent years is the reduction of cashiers by using both self- and automated-checkout technology, but retail security experts are warning that these advancements may come at a high cost if proper security measures are not implemented.
The Growth of Self-Checkout
Self-checkouts have been prevalent in retail stores across America since the early 2000s. By 2024, the market is expected to hit $4billion, with 468,000 units installed globally. The growth of self-checkout technology is nothing new, but the rate of implementation is gaining a lot of attention — especially among grocers.
With so much focus on digital sales and online shopping, most people think that the days of brick-and-mortar stores are over. Before the pandemic, nearly 98% of U.S. grocery sales were in physical stores. But several reports indicate that even with the gains in curbside pickup and home delivery, 85% of sales were still in stores at the peak of COVID-19. During the pandemic, self-checkout technology proved to be an effective solution and now retailers are looking towards creating checkout free or cashierless stores.
Self-checkout is one thing, but when we talk about a checkout-free store, we’re talking about a place where there are no cashiers, no lines and no waiting.
The cashierless concept is taking off. Several major retailers have already announced that they plan to implement systems that will increase convenience for shoppers and decrease the time of traditional lines.
Deep learning, data analytics, AI and security technologies all are used to fuel this extremely convenient approach.
Security Cameras Make it Happen
Checkout free stores aim to set a new standard for convenience. An automated checkout system allows customers to walk in, grab what they want and then leave the store without having to physically check out.
While this sounds extremely convenient for customers, there are several important security concerns that need to be considered. Perhaps one of the biggest vulnerabilities of self-checkout is the potential for theft.
Although we have limited data on checkout free stores, industry research already tells us that theft jumps when customers are empowered to scan their own purchases, both at a self-checkout register or with a hand-held device as they shop. So, what’s a viable solution? Security cameras and AI. In fact, if we look at the current checkout checkout-free model, we can easily identify the importance of security cameras.
Currently, when a customer enters the store, they scan their QR code available in the mobile app. Cameras follow the customer around, tracking what they picked up using computer vision. Smart shelves equipped with a variety of sensors confirm what the cameras “see.” FLIR machine vision cameras, for example, enable stores to perform accurate tracking and 3D reconstruction across many cameras.
Multiple cameras are mounted on the ceiling and have a 360-degree view of the store. Even more impressive is that if someone believes they can get around the system by slipping a small item into their hand or sleeve without being seen by a camera, the visual data is backed up by weighted shelving.
Convenience stores are changing the way people shop. The initial response appears to be positive. Customers report that the frictionless experience is remarkably easy, saves time and reduces health risks.
While checkout-free stores offer promising convenience for customers, retailers must evaluate the risks and use effective security systems to offset them. Security cameras will certainly play a pivotal role in this great transition as we shift into a new way of shopping.
Patrick Chown is the owner and president of Safe and Sound Security. With a commitment to exceptional service and nationwide coverage, Safe and Sound Security specializes in integrating security cameras, access control, burglar alarms, and structured cabling. Check out our Video Management Software page to learn more.