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Zippin's Autonomous Stores Take Off at JFK and RIOGaleão Airports
Company plans to open 100 stores in transit hubs next year.
Zippin announced today that it has brought its grab-n-go cashierless checkout tech to stores to the John F. Kennedy Internationl Airport in New York City and the Tom Jobim International Airport (“Galeão”), in Rio de Janeiro. These are the first autonomous stores for each of these airports.
Zippin partnered with SSP America to launch Camden Food Express, an cashierless store now open in Terminal 4 of JFK. Customers tap their credit card upon entering the store and once inside, cameras and weight sensors and artificial intelligence keep track of what items are taken by each shopper. Customers then just walk out and get charged automatically.
At the same time on the other side of the equator, Zippin worked with Ame Digital, Americanas S.A.’s fintech and mobile business platform, to open the Ame Go store in the domestic boarding area of the Galeão airport. (Lojas Americanas S.A. is also an investor in Zippin.)
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Worth noting is that the JFK store is open after the security check, and the Galeão store is open before the security check. Both stores have been open for a week and Zippin Co-Founder and CEO Krishna Motukuri told me during an interview this week that they’ve already seen some differences in shopping patterns. Because the JFK store is only accessible to travelers, most shoppers are buying food and drinks. The Galeão store is open to everyone, and shoppers there are buying travel essentials and is being used by airport employees.
Both stores are opening at a… well, interesting time for air travel. On one hand, vaccination boosters and the availability of vaccines for kids ages 5 - 11 certainly opens up the possibility of travel for a lot of people who have stayed put for twenty months. However, the recent rise and spread of the Omicron COVID variant has cast a pall over the holiday travel season, once again raising questions about health and safety.
Sadly, now is actually a good time for autonomous retail technology like Zippin’s. The pandemic, in part, has been a big reason that autonomous checkout has been such a big story this year. “COVID has been a major factor in accelerating the adoption of the technology,” Krishna Motukuri, Co-Founder and CEO of Zippin told me during an interview this week.
Cashierless checkout stores can reduce human-to-human contact (no cashiers), and remove the need to stand in line — so shoppers aren’t congregating and can get in and out of the store much faster.
Airports in particular, with their high-volume of people who want to buy items quickly, are perfect locations for cashierless retail. “As things are opening up, transit hubs are realizing that as people are coming back, there is still quite a bit of PTSD around COVID,” Motukuri said.
Zippin isn’t alone in opening autonomous stores at airports. Earlier this year Amazon partnered with airport stalwart Hudson News to launch an Amazon Go-powered Hudson Nostop store at the Dallas Love Field Airport in March of this year.
Zippin, however, isn’t going to let Amazon steamroll their way to dominance in the cashierless checkout space. With more than 40 stores open around the world, Zippin says that it is the only autonomous retail startup to rival Amazon.
And Zippin, which raised $30 million in September, is ready to hit the gas in 2022. The company says that roughly 100 Zippin-powered stores will open up in train stations and airports next year, and almost 100 Zippin stores are planned to open in stadiums (another high-traffic, need-for-speed locale) in the U.S. in the next six months.
“Mainstream adoption is already happening in a way that most people didn't think of when they first started learning about autonomous stores,” Motukuri said, “In their mind they had a convenience store with one casheir and then no cashier. But it is eliminatig friction — not the elimination of cashiers — that is the primary draw.”