Self-serve checkout: The cashier-less movement is here


Guest post by Kelly Short, Marketing and Sales Assistant for PowerChord

I’ve been reflecting on my recent trip to Europe.

My initial goal in visiting Europe was to enjoy some time off work and sightsee, but I still found my curiosity for emerging tech trends peaked at times. In particular, I noticed a few stores that displayed a “help yourself” or self-serve mentality. Amazon Go had its debut in early 2018, but I did not have the privilege of experiencing this concept until I traveled across the pond.

This retail innovation basically eliminates the need for humans. Shoppers can now either use a mobile app, scan a receipt, or text in their payment allowing for a quicker, more efficient way of getting in and getting out. Some benefits of unmanned retail I didn’t consider before researching include:

  • Points of sales in new places
  • Reduced overhead costs
  • Ability to gather shopper data
  • Improvement of the efficiency of inventory management

The store that I remember walking through with this ability was Albert Heijn – located in Amsterdam. Shoppers could walk in, use their “Tap to Go” card to register the items they chose to purchase, pay on their smartphone app, and walk out, skipping even self-serve checkouts.

Because I hadn’t experienced this idea yet, I am certain I looked like a person with her head in the clouds.

But after observing the locals, I finally figured it out.

After arriving back in the States and back to work, I took a deep dive into learning about the “cashier-less environment” and found several brands already practicing the self-serve checkout idea. Here are a few of the most interesting I found.


I first stumbled across a company named Zippin. The idea for this company is very similar to the Albert Heijn example I shared above. They have set out to create a “checkout-free technology” allowing shoppers to cut through the noise of having to interact with a potentially long line anywhere else.

What really blew my mind about this company was their use of AI and machine learning allowing them to effectively track inventory within the store by using sensors and ceiling and shelf-based camera systems. Not only do retailers know when something is out of stock, but customers are provided real-time updates as well.

Take a look at how it works.

Caper Labs

Just to continue our love for autonomous… I introduce to you the Caper Labs Smart Cart! You now have a shopping cart that detects items as they enter your cart and, better yet, all you have to do is toss them in and leave the store, no need even for self-serve checkouts.

One thing the Caper Labs Smart Cart may one-up Zippin with is the potential to surface discounts and recommendations. “In the future, it plans to add recommendations based on what’s in your cart to help you fill out recipes.”

It is basically taking out any thinking you may have to do while shopping. That, to me, is a game changer. Half the time I forget what I came to the store for in the first place.

Take a look a their interface.

Caper Labs Smart Cart interface (courtesy Tech Crunch).

Cafe X

This one got me really excited. It is basically a robot that makes coffee. The future is here. Cafe X only has three locations currently – all based in San Francisco. One of their locations sits literally on the sidewalk of a highly populated corner within the city. The robot can deliver multiple drink sizes, clear cups, and nitro-infused cold brew.

I guess the worry of getting your order wrong is irrelevant now. The Cafe X barista makes sure of that. Better yet, you won’t have to worry about someone spelling your name wrong on the cup either.

“Kelli” “Kely” “Kale-ee”

Self-serve kiosks are located at these locations, but if you feel like using your phone instead you can download the Cafe X app and order from there. A pick-up code will be sent to you after the order has been placed.

That code is then used to accept the coffee the robot just made you. And now you can go about your day!

This sounds great and all but now I’m anxiously awaiting one to open up in my town.

Cafe X self-serve coffee kiosk (courtesy Business Insider).

About PowerChord

A leading SaaS company that offers digital solutions for multi-location brands and franchises, PowerChord’s advanced technology works with global businesses to provide brand-specific, local websites to their local retail networks. These Digital Storefronts help protect brand standards, engage customers and grow local revenue – while giving independent stores the ability to compete against large, online retailers. The PowerChord Platform also includes hyper-local Digital Marketing strategies that scale national campaigns into personalized store campaigns, and flexible Digital Services to win online search and drive local sales.

PowerChord is a BIA/Kelsey GOLOCAL award winner and has been recognized as a Deloitte Technology Fast 500 company and an Inc. 5000 company. They currently operate in 28 countries and service over 10,000 local sites worldwide, with employees based across the United States and Europe. Learn more about PowerChord’s end-to-end digital solutions at

About Kelly Short

Kelly Short is a sales and marketing assistant and a contributing columnist at PowerChord. She loves hiking, cooking, and playing the piano.

What do you think about self-serve checkout technology and the cashier-less movement trend? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook, or MeWe.

Last Updated on February 3, 2021.

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