Zippin, a tech company testing a proprietary checkout-free store in San Francisco, has entered a strategic partnership with a Brazil-based retailer.
Under terms of the agreement, retailer Lojas Americanas has made a strategic investment in San Francisco-based Zippin and will utilize its technology exclusively in Brazil at its Ame Go convenience stores. Zippin said one unit is already under operation in Rio and a second is set to open in Sao Paolo soon.
The new checkout-free Ame Go stores will vary in size from 250 to 3,000 square feet and will be located in high-traffic, mostly urban locations with a largely captive customer base, such as financial districts and housing complexes, the companies said. Customers will access the stores through the company’s popular Ame Digital app. In addition, they are developing an automated Ame Box checkout-free store-within-a-store concept powered by Zippin.
“We see checkout-free shopping as the future. Nobody wants to waste time waiting in cashier lines, and with Zippin’s breakthrough technology no one will have to,” said Joao Guerra, chief information officer of Lojas Americanas. “Going checkout-free enables us to delight our customers with speedy and convenient shopping while unlocking additional value in the form of higher sales per square foot, better margins and in-store inventory tracking and forecasting.”
In an interview with WGB earlier this year, Zippin founder and CEO Krishna Motukuri explained how the company built its proprietary store as a means of demonstrating to potential partners the viability of its program, which utilizes computer vision cameras and shelving with weight sensors to identify items taken off the shelf. He said the company was working with additional retailers that have not been disclosed.
As with Amazon Go stores, customers can “check in” by scanning a code on the Ame Go app at a turnstile and walk out with the items they want. The app, with an enabled payment, will automatically charge them for the items they take.
Motokuri said the technology would enable stores to realize additional sales, because shoppers won’t be discouraged by encountering a crowded outlet. He likened the benefits to the physical store owner to that of an e-commerce retailer, gaining insights into how customers shop for specific items.
“With this technology, it doesn’t matter how many people are in the store. You can just walk in and get what you need in 15 seconds and leave. That means significant speed, happy customers and more sales," Motokuri said. "The other benefit that really lights up people’s eyes is they get real-time geotracking and forecasting. We know when a shelf is running out of product, and that’s a problem for a retailer because they can’t sell a product they don’t have. They also know what products people considered but didn’t buy."
Zippin offers its technologies to retailers as a service, charging a fee based on the size of the store. Off-the-shelf, commodity hardware keeps up-front costs low, and most urban convenience stores can realize a payback on their initial investment in six months, Motokuri said.
Similar technologies are seeing a wave of trial in the industry. Giant Eagle recently announced it would trial with Grabango, and U.K.-based Tesco said it would roll out a checkout-free store using technology from the Israel-based tech company Trigo Vision.
“While other technology providers have announced deals and hinted at pilot stores, the new Lojas Americanas stores make Zippin the first company to deploy its checkout-free technology in a live, public store with a major retail partner,” Motokuri said. “We are excited to lead the checkout-free shopping revolution by making it a reality for consumers in the real world.”