As Amazon rolls out its checkout-free store concept – Amazon Go – in the US, UK retailers are upping their efforts in this area, as they seek to improve the speed, convenience and efficiency of customer payment.

Amazon Go’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology enables customers with an Amazon account and an iPhone or Android mobile phone with the Amazon Go app, to pick items from the store and walk out. Amazon detects when items are taken from or put back onto shelves, updating the shopper’s virtual cart accordingly. Whilst the app is required to enter the store, the mobile phone is not required to complete the shopping journey. The customer’s bill is then charged to their Amazon account later on.

The Amazon Go concept first opened to the public in Seattle in January this year (2018). The internet behemoth has since opened Amazon Go stores in Chicago and last week, made its debut in San Francisco. New York is reported to be next in line for a store.

In the UK, as on the Continent, a number of large grocery retailers are looking at mobile-based payment systems.

We recently tested out M&S’s MOBILE PAY GO mobile-based payment technology, visiting its Waterside store in Paddington, London, where it is being trialling.

To use MOBILE PAY GO, a customer needs to download and log into the M&S app on their mobile phone, connect to the store and scan the items they want to buy. They can then pay via their mobile phone, using Apple Pay, or their regular payment card without the need to go through the checkout.

Here’s what we thought of the experience…

Overall, we found the process relatively smooth and pain-free, with the scanner quick to recognise products. And it felt like a luxury not to have to queue at the till when you only want one or two items. On the down side, it did feel a little clunky to have to carry your mobile phone around in your hand – ready to scan – or get it out every time you wanted to scan.

Operationally, we were interested to learn (from in-store staff) that the technology relies upon trust, just like in a conventional shop, which makes us wonder about security. We’d assume it’s more obvious to store security whether someone’s paid or not when they have to walk through a till point; it’s less obvious when someone can wonder around a store and walk out without going through a till point area.

It’s difficult to judge in-store comms, as the concept is still at trial stage – and we don’t know whether the MOBILE PAY GO ident is final or not – but the ident doesn’t feel visually on-brand for M&S. And the ‘NEVER QUEUE AGAIN!’ command on the promotional leaflet feels a little shouty, and to us at least, not particularly M&S.

However, we do like the use of three words (MOBILE PAY GO) to communicate the concept. MOBILE PAY GO and OPEN SCAN PAY are contemporary, motivational prompts, and we like the use of the word ‘GO’ to portray the feeling of motion, as it’s a word that consumers are already used to in the retail context: think ‘Pay as you go’, ‘Amazon Go’ and ‘Food to go’.

Overall, we were impressed by MOBILE PAY GO as something that could help bring in-store payment systems in the UK into the 21st century.

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