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Opening Doors for All: The Importance of Accessibility in Autonomous Stores

A woman in a wheelchair choosing items in a store.

Easy access and convenience are two top priorities for autonomous stores, which raises the question: what inclusive solutions do autonomous stores offer to provide accessibility for all people?

The rise of autonomous stores, where customers can shop without interacting with a salesperson, has led to a new set of challenges for ensuring accessibility for all customers. While these stores offer convenience and efficiency, they may also present barriers for customers with disabilities, such as difficulty navigating the store or interacting with the technology. 

According to the CDC, in the U.S. alone, 1 in 4 adults has some type of disability. That means there are approximately 86,998,762 people in the U.S. who have a disability.

Easy access and convenience are two top priorities for autonomous stores, which raises the question: what inclusive solutions do autonomous stores offer to provide accessibility for all people?

In this article, we’ll cover the importance of accessibility in autonomous stores, whether at a c-store, stadium, or arena. Plus, we’ll discuss strategies for improving accessibility to create a more inclusive shopping experience for everyone.

ACCESSIBILITY CHALLENGES IN AUTONOMOUS STORES [+ SOLUTIONS]

Quick, seamless, and efficient. That’s what autonomous shopping experiences are supposed to be like, right? Well, when these stores are executed poorly, people with disabilities can face a multitude of challenges when using technology such as self-checkout or navigating narrow aisles. In fact, 65% of consumers with disabilities believe they have limited purchasing choices on a daily basis. And 43% of these people report abandoning their cart due to a lack of accessibility online and in-store.

Below, we’re highlighting a few common accessibility impediments autonomous stores may face when built inefficiently. Plus, we’re sharing solutions for each!

1

Tricky Store Layouts

People with mobility disabilities (11.1% of U.S. citizens) often experience difficulties navigating store layouts when the aisles are narrow or overcrowded with product displays. This can create barriers to entry for customers who use mobility devices like wheelchairs or scooters. 

To address this issue, autonomous stores should incorporate wider aisles, clear paths for foot traffic, and consider inclusive layouts to ensure that all customers can easily navigate and access the products they need.

Camera-only autonomous store technology, like AiFi, enables retailers to design their store layout with inclusivity in mind. Because AiFi requires minimal hardware, it allows for maximum floor and aisle space—providing clear paths for ample foot traffic and various mobility devices.

2

Alternative Forms of Interaction

Autonomous stores often rely on technology for a seamless shopping experience, but this can also create barriers for some customers. For example, touchscreens may be difficult for people with visual impairments (4.9%), and voice recognition systems may not work for customers with speech impediments. 

To overcome these obstacles, autonomous stores can provide alternative forms of interaction, such as accessible touchscreens, seamless store entry using just a credit card, and frictionless checkout options. These alternatives ensure that all customers can easily use the store’s technology and enjoy a seamless shopping experience.

3

Self-Checkout Options

Self-checkout kiosks can be an efficient and convenient way to make purchases in autonomous stores, but they can also pose challenges for some customers. For example, customers with mobility disabilities may have difficulty accessing the kiosks, and customers with visual impairments may struggle to read the screens. 

To address these challenges, autonomous stores can offer self-checkout kiosks with adjustable heights, large-print or audio instructions, and tactile buttons to make the experience more accessible for all customers. Alternatively, camera-only frictionless checkout solutions (like AiFi) enable shoppers to purchase items in-store without having to use a kiosk. Here’s how it works:

  • Shoppers enter the store quickly with their credit card or an app
  • AI-powered computer vision begins shopper tracking and recognizes products taken
  • Shoppers head home completely checkout-free, with receipts sent directly to their emails if selected

Pro Tip: Check out the AiFi autonomous shopping solution and discover how it works.

BENEFITS OF ACCESSIBILITY IN AUTONOMOUS STORES

There are many benefits of implementing accessible solutions in autonomous stores, including increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue. It’s true! Designing autonomous stores with accessibility in mind is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. Autonomous stores alone have the potential to double profit margins compared to traditional retail stores. 

And by creating a welcoming and inclusive shopping environment, autonomous stores can attract and retain a diverse customer base while providing a seamless shopping experience for everyone. Overall, the benefits of accessibility in autonomous stores include:

  • Providing a more inclusive shopping experience for customers with disabilities, ensuring that they have equal access to products and services. 
  • Attracting a wider range of customers and an improvement in customer loyalty, which can lead to increased sales and profits.
  • Improving the customer experience for all shoppers by incorporating accessibility features such as wider aisles and frictionless checkout options.
  • Designing an accessible store can also help businesses comply with disability discrimination laws and regulations (i.e. ADA, etc.), avoiding potential legal issues. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Accessibility is essential in autonomous stores to ensure that all customers, including those with disabilities, can enjoy a seamless shopping experience. Not to mention, incorporating accessibility features in autonomous stores is not only socially responsible but also has numerous practical benefits for businesses. 

AiFi’s flexible autonomous shopping solutions and technology are designed with accessibility in mind. Discover why AiFi is the largest AI platform with over 18 global retailers’ signed contracts and more than 100 stores worldwide. Request a demo to experience, firsthand, the power and potential of AiFi.