What is Frictionless Retail

Frictionless retail is the utilization of new technology to nullify as many obstacles – or points of friction – as possible; providing a seamless and convenient shopping experience.

In this context, friction is defined as any obstacles that may slow down the checkout process, such as long lines. This can cause customers to become frustrated, and subsequently abandon their cart. It can also lead to a loss in both current and future customers, and reputational damage from negative reviews and word-of-mouth.

The general aims behind frictionless retail include cutting down in-store waiting times, providing up-sell opportunities, and the seamless integration of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. This can include self-checkout, mobile-checkout, automated checkout, curbside pick-up and more.

Frictionless Checkout

Frictionless checkout includes any number of recent innovations that allow customers to ‘scan & go’:

Self-checkout: These self-checkout terminals, which have become ubiquitous in retail, allow customers to scan and pay for products themselves – as opposed to a member of staff.

Mobile checkout: Allowing customers to checkout via their smartphone, as opposed to a self-checkout terminal.

Automated checkout: Some retailers, such as Amazon Go, have developed methods that completely automate the checkout process; which results in customers being to walk out of the store with their products without having to scan or pay. A series of sensors will detect which products have been removed by which customers, and have charged to one’s account automatically.

Pay-at-pump: In the case of convenience fuel retail, adding a point-of-sale device directly to each gas pump is a great example of frictionless checkout. It allows customers to drive up to the pump, fill up their car, and pay without entering the actual store. This can be particularly beneficial to travelers trying to beat a deadline.

Line-busting: In instances where self-serve is not applicable, retailers can empower store associates with mobile tablets to checkout customers in the aisle before they reach the cash register or while they are waiting in line, significantly reducing the risk of long lines.

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Touchless Retail

The global COVID-19 pandemic merely accelerated the change that was already happening in frictionless retail. Retailers have had to maintain a convenient customer experience in a way that keeps person-to-person infection rates down.

While frictionless retail proved to tick these boxes, it has been further finessed to address the specific needs of the pandemic. Touchless checkout results in an emphasis on mobile checkout, rather than self-checkout terminals. Companies such as Amazon and Standard Cognition are also driving automated checkout with in-built camera sensors in the store to facilitate this growing trend. The key aim is to elevate the levels of convenience for the shopper, while reducing the chances of infection.

According to our recent research, convenience store retailers believe that offering more checkout options to customers is important for their future, now and post-pandemic. Only 10% say they have the exact POS infrastructure to serve the business now and in the future.

Frictionless Fulfillment

With the marrying of online and offline, one aspect that retailers have been heavily focused on is ‘last mile’ fulfillment. This is the last stage in the e-commerce buying process: delivering the product from the shelf or storage facility to the customer. Retailers have had to adapt fast, whether that be in-house delivery teams or third party partnerships with the likes of Uber Eats, DoorDash, GoPuff and more.

Frictionless Retail Requirements

In order to adapt, retailers need to move away from the traditional PC-oriented point of sale process, to a software-led strategy that empowers a range of frictionless checkout models.

The rapid development of new technology-driven retail trends, combined with the advent of the post-Covid new normal, is forcing retailers to exist in a perpetual state of development and improvement. Not only can legacy IT infrastructure present a barrier to adding new frictionless checkout technology, but it can be both costly and time-intensive.

Most retailers simply don’t have the time, resources or funds to invest in a complete IT overhaul—but doing nothing is not an option. The ideal solution is one that enables you to deliver modern shopping experiences and add new capabilities quickly, using your existing IT investments.

A software defined store strategy is that solution. Software defined stores use virtualization technology specifically built for the retail edge, enabling them to optimize their existing store IT stack and still migrate to a more open, agile and scalable infrastructure. Find out more about a software defined edge strategy.


Why is Software Defined Edge important?

What it takes to win in retail is changing. In an era of new expectations of speed, unique consumer experiences and the importance of the omni-channel, winners must deliver a superior experience, more services and faster innovations at the retail edge. Today, retailers are confronted with a hostile and dynamic environment in their branches and stores, with ever increasing demand to roll out new customer experiences, while at the same time reducing costs and fighting off security threats.

What do you mean by edge-scale?

Edge scale means designed from the ground up for the environment that exists at the edge, rather than stretched datacenter technology. For the edge, technology must be designed for large scale deployment of 100s or 1000s of edge sites and optimized to deliver workloads with efficient small form-factor edge servers.

What do you mean by edge server?

For Zynstra, an edge server is a virtualized and hyperconverged server that sits outside of the datacenter, often in a store or branch. It provides compute, storage and network capability optimized for a hostile edge environment.

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