Just Walk Out? Exploring the Challenges of Ambient Intelligence for Customer Experience, Effort and Memorability

Exploring the Challenges of Just Walk Out Technology

Project dates: 2019 - 2020

This research aimed to understand customer perceptions of a just-walk-out grocery experience facilitated by ambient intelligence. Additionally, with increasingly frictionless experiences becoming the ‘desired’ norm in retail, this research aimed to understand how subsequent reduction in customer effort (by the removal of the checkout) influenced memorability of the experience overall for the customer.

Why is this important?

The introduction of the Amazon Go store in 2018, which leveraged ambient intelligence to deliver a just-walk-out experience for the customer, heralded a significant milestone in achieving the ultimate frictionless experience by completely removing the physical checkout in a convenience store setting. With grocery stores set to adopt just-walk-out experiences within the decade, understanding variation in customer perception of the just-walk-out experience has established a new sense of urgency to inform strategic and comprehensive future implementation.

What did we do?

30 participants were interviewed for this research of which utilised a purpose-built virtual simulation of a just-walk-out grocery experience to support the interview process. The sample was 18+ in age, consisting of both males and females, represented diversity in education levels/qualifications (Year 10, High School, Graduate Certificate, Bachelors’ degree or higher), occupations (e.g. receptionist, CEO, retired) attitudes towards technology use in daily life (both positive and negative), and shopping style. The latter was determined by each participant whom self-selected from four different shopping personas they identified most with in the grocery shopping context (Efficient, Social, Leisurely, and Ethical), developed from Holbrook’s (2006) typology of customer value.

What did we find out?

The data revealed that perception of an ambient intelligent grocery experience is highly subjective and dependent on the customer value sought by each customer.

  • Customers who value efficiency in their grocery experiences perceive the just-walk-out technology positively, as it aligns to their ideal experience through a reduction in pragmatic and social interaction components of their customer experience, which they often view as barriers to efficiency, traditionally presented in the process of a physical checkout. By removing the physical checkout and limiting opportunities for unnecessary human interaction, the removal of perceived barriers of efficiency enables a perception of a more efficient experience overall.
  • Customers who value ethical or more altruistic experiences, and thus gain value from helping and engaging with others in their typical grocery experience, perceived just-walk-out technology negatively as it inhibited their ability to engage with others. Often gaining intrinsic value from their external environment, this lack of human interaction impacted their emotional journey of their grocery experience. Thus, ethical or altruistic shoppers perceived the just-walk-out grocery experience negatively.
  • Due to the low customer effort required in just-walk-out experience, while the experience would initially be memorable due to the novelty of just-walk-out technology, this memorability would fade over time due to continued use in daily life. This fading memorability over continued use of technology is consistent with other applications of technology, such as smart phones, self-serve checkouts, and internet banking.
  • Notably, while there was a reduction in the physical effort of logistically processing through a traditional checkout (as the physical checkout was removed), memorability was ultimately reduced due to the lack of human interaction in the frictionless grocery experience, facilitated by ambient intelligence. Therefore, by removing the high effort of human interaction, the subsequently frictionless experience was forgettable to the customer. However, this was an ideal situation as customers did not want a grocery shopping experience to be memorable in the first place.

For more information, contact: chelsea.phillips@connect.qut.edu.au

Chief Investigators


Project Summary

  • Just Walk Out? Exploring the Challenges of Ambient Intelligence for Customer Experience, Effort and Memorability – Project Summary

Rich Media

  • What about the humans? – Blog Post
  • BEST Conference 2021 Presentation | “Just Walk Out? Exploring the Challenges of Ambient Intelligence for Customer Experience, Effort and Memorability”