Microsoft is said to be developing in-store technology that lets shoppers check out sans queue or cashier.
Checkout is emerging as among the hottest battlegrounds in the retail wars today, with Amazon Go currently leading the way. The highly automated convenience store in Seattle, which will open locations in new cities later this year, weaves together a sophisticated system of cameras, sensors and computer vision to track the items shoppers pick up and put into their bag. Upon entering the store, shoppers scan their Amazon app at a turnstile so the company knows who’s shopping. Customers are automatically billed for total purchases upon exit—no formal “checkout” required.
The technology that Microsoft is said to be developing, according to reports from Reuters Thursday, also seems to target the grocery and convenience industries and tracks each item that shoppers put into their carts. Of note, one of Microsoft’s partners includes AVA retail, a startup that’s developed its own SmoothShop seamless checkout experience.
For the moment, there are few details about precisely how Microsoft’s in-the-works system operates, whether it provides a viable solution that retailers would adopt, or when the technology would come to market, if it even makes it through the development process. Some efforts around automated checkout have proven far too unwieldy to fully catch on with consumers.
Microsoft is said to have demo’d its solution for select global retailers and may be in talks with Walmart, Reuters said. One of the biggest challenges in automated checkout is keeping the tech affordable for retailers facing already thin margins.
Retail is a lucrative market for Microsoft, which currently is No. 2 behind Amazon in selling the cloud services that power web commerce platforms. An in-store tech solution would give the software company further inroads into brick-and-mortar retail.
The U.S. employed more than 3.5 million cashiers in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and median pay in 2017 stood at $21,030.