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Verifying sales

By Retail Technology | Thursday October 25 2018

As today’s retail landscape embraces digital technologies, where does age verification technology fit in? Yoti’s John Abbott argues that it is the last piece in securing seamless retail transactions.

Almost every aspect of our lives is being transformed by technology. We can book a taxi at the click of a button, order clothes, have guitar lessons, speak to a doctor, order dinner, enjoy a yoga class and even rent a stranger’s home. 

Almost instantaneously, the bar has been raised by the overnight success stories of brands such as ASOS and Amazon. As a result, consumers expect a seamless experience, every time. 

The modern shopper wants speed and convenience, both online and in person. High street retailers therefore need to keep up to speed with the pace of consumers’ online habits, and deliver fast and frictionless transactions. 

New technologies 

Supermarket retailers are innovating with new technologies to achieve just that. Amazon Go, the new checkout-less convenience store, uses cameras and sensors to see what people are buying and then bills their Amazon account after they leave the store. 

While it’s still early days for this futuristic store, there are also developments in the technology many of us interact with on a frequent basis - the supermarket self checkout. 

Originally invented in the 1980s, the self checkout has become one of the greatest innovations seen in supermarkets. 

While speeding up most of our departures with newly purchased goods, there are a handful of scenarios at present where they do quite the opposite. 

Think about the last time you scanned a bottle of wine through a self checkout - you’re told assistance is needed before you can proceed. Once you’ve spotted a member of staff, you smile and wave letting them know you need help. But before they reach you they stop to help someone else. 

Shopping experience 

It turns out the customer has picked up the wrong product and you’ve got to wait for the checkout assistant to run off to the opposite side of the supermarket and back, then fix the problem on the other EPOS before they can check your ID. We’ve all been there.

In fact, age verification can make up over 50% of interventions at self checkouts impacting checkout time for consumers. It’s not difficult to see where the seamless self checkout shopping experience begins to fall down. 

But change is coming. New technology is being trialled that lets shoppers prove their age at the self checkout, without the need for intervention. Customers will be able to face the self checkout’s inbuilt camera and in a matter of seconds, the technology will determine a predicted age for that person. 

Frictionless experience 

There’s no need for them dig around for ID documents or wait for a supermarket employee to come over and help. They can simply scan their items, instantly prove their age, checkout and head home. 

Some of the world’s largest supermarkets are set to trial this new technology over the coming months, providing a frictionless experience for the customer and freeing up employees to focus on enhancing the overall shopping experience. 

The self checkout was, and still is, an innovation but needs to keep up with customer demand and modernise if it is to improve the customer experience further. 

Earlier in October, The Sunday Times reported that Amazon was looking to acquire UK retail stores of between 4,000 sq ft and 5,000 sq ft. The report claimed Amazon’s acquisition demonstrated its desire to bring “just walk out technology” to the UK. 

Clearly, change is coming in the way we shop. It’s time for mainstream retailers to bring convenience to their tech savvy customers with digital technologies, or run the risk of falling behind these potential supermarket retailers of tomorrow.   

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