Biggest electronics store in the world goes checkout-free

European consumer electronics retailer, MediaMarktSaturn, has announced plans to offer mobile self-checkout at a Saturn store in Hamburg, Germany, that, at 18,000sqm, is said to be the world’s biggest electronics store.

Customers can download the Saturn Smartpay app to scan and pay for products with their smartphone, rather than needing to queue or wait at the checkout. More than 100,000 products can be purchased through the self-checkout app. The technology was provided by MishiPay.

The rollout in Hamburg follows a successful trial of scan-and-go payment at a smaller electronics store in Innsbruck, Germany, which far exceeded expectations, according to the retailer.

“The very positive response from customers has encouraged us to offer mobile self-checkout across a large floorspace for the first time,” Martin Wild, chief innovation officer of the MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group, said.

“Our customers in Hamburg will benefit from an even better shopping experience and an additional innovative payment option when doing their Christmas shopping,” he said.

From Amazon Go to The Party People

MediaMarktSaturn is the latest retailer to embrace checkout-free stores following Amazon’s widely-publicised investment in Amazon Go stores, where hundreds of cameras and sophisticated weight sensors can detect when a customer picks up a product from a shelf. Items are automatically added to the customer’s online shopping basket and charged to their Amazon account when they leave the store.

Earlier this year, Woolworths announced that it was trialling a scan-and-go payment app at its Double Bay supermarket, and The Party People rolled out a similar solution at its Sydney pop-up around Halloween. While mobile apps significantly reduce the investment required to go checkout-free, compared to cameras and sensors, they are arguably much more vulnerable to shrinkage.

What’s to stop a customer from simply pretending to scan a product, or scanning a cheaper product, which research shows is already a problem at stationery self-checkouts? Retailers could get around this by checking customers’ receipts and baskets as they exit the store, but this would seem to negate the main reason retailers give for going checkout-free: to get rid of queues.

In a statement, MediaMarktSaturn cited a recent study by Adyen, which found the European retail sector has lost €34 billion ($53 billion) in the last 12 months alone because customers were put off by long waiting times.

Mobile checkout solution providers are looking for ways around this. When The Party People rolled out its scan-and-go payment app earlier this year, it had staff manually checking customers’ receipts and baskets, but chief executive Dean Salakas said this might not be necessary in future, since Tilly, the company that developed the app, is looking to launch a new feature that would allow retailers to report problem customers.

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