Though it’s still a work in progress, instant checkout’s appeal is undeniable.

Emily Foshee, vice president of core products at Discover® Global Network, said unattended checkout is gaining steam in brick-and-mortar settings and will gain speed, so to speak, with the aid of advanced technologies.

“Where we are, right now, is a natural acceleration that has come from the pandemic — toward a digital, mobile-first experience,” she said. Increasingly, we’ve gotten used to eating in restaurants as economies reopen, as we “check out” and pay through apps or wait in line at the coffee shop (and grab an additional pastry on impulse). Buy online pay in-store (BOPIS), of course, is here to stay.

In the months and years ahead, she said, we’ll see an ever-evolving convergence between digital and physical channels at the point of checkout.

Foshee noted the convergence is sparking an “evolution of the terminal.” The register is evolving away from existing as a machine affixed to a counter at the front of the store, near the door, where cards are swiped and tapped and we walk out with paper receipts. Increasingly, the terminal/register travels with us.

“Overall, there’s an expectation for digital-first experiences,” Foshee told PYMNTS.

A number of advanced technologies are helping usher in that aforementioned convergence. She said biometrics are becoming more widely accepted (and valued) by consumers as they transact and want more privacy around their data.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), she said, can help streamline and improve the customer experience as data moves with them across channels.

The Question of Identity

Tying it all together is authentication. Retailers, she said, must answer a question that will be critical in determining whether a consumer leaves a store empty-handed:

“How are you going to authenticate the consumer and confirm their identity in a way that’s frictionless and does not [negatively] impact the customer experience?”

Authentication will prove increasingly important as consumers might flock to in-person retail experiences to feel and touch the merchandise. But they might start their consumer journeys online, on their mobile devices. By having robust authentication protocols already in place on those devices, they can enter the brick-and-mortar establishment with their identities already established through biometrics and apps.

With the assurances of identity already in place, Foshee said, the stage is set for checkout to be as simple as “walking back out” from the store as the purchase happens — with the purchase given the go-ahead with a simple tap or wave of the device.

“The credentials and permissions that are shared, she said, “help enable that frictionless experience.”

To get to instant checkout ubiquity and to give a tailwind to scan-and-go options, she said merchants could and should take steps to educate consumers about those features and reassure consumers about data security and the merits of a faster checkout experience.

As time goes on, she said, “consumers are going to go down the path of mobile, eCommerce first … and merchants are going to have the consumer experience ‘first’ along this multi-year journey.”

PYMNTS Data: Why Consumers Are Trying Digital Wallets

A PYMNTS study, “New Payments Options: Why Consumers Are Trying Digital Wallets” finds that 52% of US consumers tried out a new payment method in 2022, with many choosing to give digital wallets a try for the first time.

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