Walmart opened a cashierless Neighborhood Market store last week in Coral Way, Florida, featuring online grocery pickup, same-day delivery and its Check Out With Me program, according to a company blog post.
Walmart has faced some challenges with its Neighborhood Market format, shuttering a number of locations during the past few years, including eight closures in 2019. At the time Walmart cited the stores’ financial performance as one of the reasons for its closures. By reducing dependence on cashiers in its latest opening in Florida, the retail giant could cut down on labor costs and potentially boost margins.
This isn’t the first time Walmart has experimented with its smart checkout offerings. In October 2018, Check Out With Me — designed to handle smaller transactions — debuted to soften holiday shopping congestion at the checkout counters, according to Business Insider. Months earlier in May 2018, Walmart ended its Scan & Go offering that enabled customers to pay for items while they browsed the store and skip the checkout line altogether. During the four-month period it was available, however, few customers used the service. Providing an employee to assist with quick checkout via Check Out With Me could alleviate challenges with bagging items like loose produce or large, bulky items.
Walmart is just one of many retailers trying to balance consumer demand for faster checkout with shopper reluctance on different tech options aimed to boost the experience. Many of those solutions still come with headaches, from unrecognized items in the bagging area and glitches with payment to lines that pile up at self-checkout kiosks — all of which can lead to poor customer experiences. Walmart’s decision to have no cashiers could free up employees to address issues with processing transactions as they arise. Offering two methods of checking out including one system for smaller baskets could also keep traffic moving.
Harris Teeter also started testing a cashierless concept in Charlotte last year. The store typically processes smaller transactions than traditional store locations with foot traffic primarily coming from urban residents and professionals, according to Retail Wire.
In lieu of committing to a self-checkout-only store, other retailers are working on technology-backed solutions to facilitate smoother checkout transactions. Ahold Delhaize recently unveiled its “frictionless” smart checkout service that lets shoppers scan items with a store app, select products and then leave, while Tesco invested in smart checkout startup Trigo. Other startups are also popping up offering turnkey smart checkout solutions to grocery retailers like Accel Robotics, Standard Cognition, Zippin and Grabango.