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MediaMarktSaturn pilots cashierless – but not frictionless – store over Christmas

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German electronics giant MediaMarktSaturn is offering cashierless payments in its Hamburg store over the Christmas season, citing a successful pilot in Austria.

The Mönckebergstrasse Saturn outlet will allow customers to buy 100,000 products using the SATURN Smartpay app, which can be downloaded through the iOS and Android app stores.

Customers can scan the barcode of the item using the smartphone’s camera or touch the NFC component, then pay through a credit card or PayPal before receiving a digital receipt. Google Pay will be available from mid-December and Apple Pay is set to be integrated into the system once it is launched in Germany.

The project, launched with UK start-up MishiPay, will run until February 2019.

Announcing the launch, MediaMarktSaturn highlighted results from an initial trial between March and May in Innsbruck, Austria. It said over 30,000 shop visitors had taken advantage of the system, with nine out of ten customers saying they would recommend it.

It is worth noting that the experience will not be completely without staff interaction. While the customer does not need to visit a cashier to pay, they will still need to have security tags removed at the Smartpay express counter.

Other retailers are looking at checkout-free technology. In the UK, for example, Marks & Spencer is allowing customers to pay for small purchases through its app in some of its London stores after trialling the technology over the summer. Similar to the Saturn installation, customers with iPhones can use the M&S app to scan products as they go and then pay up to the value of £30 using Apple Pay or a saved card on their M& account.

The hypothetical endpoint of these efforts is a completely staff-free store experience, as Amazon is offering through its Amazon Go concept. Customers who have set up payment through the app can, in theory, simply walk in, pick up whatever items they want and then walk out. Amazon then automatically bills them.

There are currently seven such stores in the US, with two more to launch soon. The ecommerce giant is also looking to introduce the concept in the UK.

The potential advantages for retailers include lower staff costs and a better customer experience. Additionally, while many retailers track what customers do on their sites and use this to hone their website and marketing efforts, the linking of a customer’s physical purchases with a digital profile will give them a vast new trove of data.

Martin Wild, chief innovation officer at MediaMarktSaturn, said: “The smartphone has become many people’s remote control for life. Therefore, it’s only logical that it will also be used to make payments in the future, especially with this development being accelerated by new mobile payment offerings such as Google Pay and Apple Pay.”

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