Amazon Go Is Exploring Ways to Accept Cash

Retailers are incorporating multiple payment options alongside cashierless technology

Pure-play, cash-free retailers are thinking about how to incorporate cash. Getty Images
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Amazon is trying to figure out how to accept additional payment options like cash at its heretofore cash-free Amazon Go locations, marking a big shift for the 10 stores and counting that were created specifically to allow shoppers to pay solely via an app.

Amazon’s move was originally reported by CNBC, which cited comments from an Amazon meeting in April. An Amazon rep confirmed the report but did not provide additional details.

This comes in the midst of allegations that the experience discriminates against individuals without bank accounts, which was followed by bans in Philadelphia and New Jersey because in part the stores do not accept cash, but also because the technology used to track customers and purchases has been shown to have biases.

Cashierless technology was truly one of the biggest retail innovations of 2018, and Amazon reportedly has big plans to scale its Go concept to 3,000 locations in the next two years.

Cash, however, could gum up the works and stall its ambitious plans.

Meanwhile, retailers like Sam’s Club, Kroger, Target and 7-Eleven have also flirted with cashless options that minimize checkout lines. But whereas Amazon Go was checkout- and cash-free from the get-go, other brick-and-mortar retailers—and those that already had a physical presence in particular—have partnered with tech companies to add cashierless components as one of multiple payment options, which may become the prevailing option.

This includes AI-powered checkout company Standard Cognition, which works with Paltac, a wholesaler in Japan, and undisclosed retailers in North America and Europe. A rep said it offers a kiosk option so stores can accept cash, credit/debit cards and other non-app payments as well.

“Standard has talked with hundreds of retailers by now, and every single one wants the option of accepting cash,” she wrote in an email. “So Standard was way ahead of Amazon on this front.”

It also includes retail automation company Trigo Vision, which has a customizable platform that allows retailers to decide what their checkout experiences include.

“Either their customers pre-register their credit card details, the cameras identify these shoppers at the store entrance and they can simply walk out once they have finished and their credit cards are charged accordingly, or we can provide payment screens at the end of the store that allow customers to confirm their shopping lists … and either pay by credit card or cash,” said COO Jenya Beilin.

This is in part so Trigo can cater to a wide market.

“A resident of Silicon Valley will likely be far more comfortable with no checkout process at all whereas someone in a more conservative state or European country may prefer to confirm their purchases and make payments before walking out with their goods,” Beilin added. “The cash option also keeps stores open to all shoppers, without eliminating those who don’t have cards or smartphones.”

Meanwhile, CEO Krishna Motukuri said automated checkout store Zippin, which opened its first location in San Francisco last year as something of a proof-of-concept for future retail clients, is “committed to supporting a wide range of payment options, including cash.”

However, he said how shoppers will pay with cash at a Zippin-powered store “is something we can’t yet talk about, as we’re still experimenting and innovating.”

Another cash-free CEO, Zak Normandin, however, said brands from his beverage company Iris Nova use its SMS-based platforms to process most orders by text message.

“Because each location exclusively utilizes our SMS tech, we had not assumed for cash, nor has demand warranted the addition of cash purchases as part of the checkout process,” he added. “If demand warrants, we can easily implement a cash component to each retail location.”

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.