7-Eleven opens checkout-free store in Melbourne

7-Eleven Australia has removed the physical checkout from the store at its head office in Melbourne. Now, customers there can pay only via mobile app.

Located in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Richmond, the store provides a more enjoyable and convenient shopping experience, 7-Eleven said, with more space and no queues.

“Nobody likes to wait, so eliminating queues was part of the mission for this mobile checkout,” Angus McKay, 7-Eleven’s CEO, said in a statement about the new store concept.

“The store feels more spacious and customers avoid being funnelled to a checkout location creating a frictionless in-store experience,” he said.

Instead of bringing their items to a cashier at the front of the store, customers simply scan the barcode of items they want to purchase with a specially designed app, pay with a card on file and walk out.

Staff are free to focus on greeting and assisting customers and delivering 7-Eleven’s growing food offer, the retailer said.

7-Eleven has been working on the cashless and cardless store concept for the past 12 months, thinking through the customer and staff experience and building the app. It recently trialed the concept alongside traditional payment methods in another store on Exhibition Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

That trial, which concluded on Monday, revealed some areas that needed improvement. For instance, staff wanted better visibility about which customers in the store were shopping via app, and which ones weren’t.

But Stephen Eyears, 7-Eleven’s head of strategy, innovation and business development, said this shouldn’t be a problem, since 7-Eleven offers a companion app for store staff, so they can see which customers in the store have opened the scan-and-pay app on their phones.

Customers also have to upload a selfie to use the app, so staff can identify them. This way, staff can be certain that customers have paid before they simply walk out of the store with items in their hands.

Other checkout-free stores, such as Amazon Go, avoid this scenario altogether by identifying the items customers pick up off the shelf via cameras and sensors, and adding it to their digital cart automatically.

Eyears said 7-Eleven will continue to tweak the concept based on learnings from the Richmond store trial, though there currently is no specific time-frame on the trial or firm plans to expand the concept to other stores.

“We’re just tarting to think about what else we need to learn operationally, and what else we could do to enhance the CX. There could be further tweaks down the track,” Eyears told Inside Retail.

“It’s not something we want to rush, we want to get it right,” he said.

If 7-Eleven does roll out the concept to more stores, Eyears expects it would be in addition to traditional payment methods, rather than the only way to pay, as it currently is in the Richmond store.

Certain cities in the US have now outlawed stores that are completely cash- and card-free, saying they discriminate against consumers who don’t have a smartphone or online account with the retailers that operate them.

Amazon has confirmed to US media outlets that it will start accepting cash at its checkout-free Amazon Go stores.

7-Eleven is the latest retailer to trial checkout-free stores since Amazon Go debuted in the US in December 2016, sparking a conversation about the future of convenience retail.

Woolworths has also trialed a scan-and-pay app in stores in NSW.

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