Gen Z drives the future of unattended retail, study finds

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages / chingyunsong
© GettyImages / chingyunsong

Related tags: retail technology, Gen Z

As members of Gen Z enter the workforce in greater numbers, their shopping habits are influencing the retail industry in non-traditional ways including fueling the growth of unattended retail channels such as cashierless checkouts and smart vending machines, according to national study which polled 2,325 consumers.

Cashless payment software company, USA Technologies, and PYMNTS conducted the Future of Unattended Retail Study​. Among surveyed consumers, the average age was 46.94 years old with four generations of consumers (Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and seniors/baby boomers) represented in the pool of respondents.

“Many consumers would like to make unattended retail purchases from self-serve kiosks, vending machines, or cashierless stores, but only 11.8% of interested consumers currently make such purchases. Our research shows that approximately 48.6 million consumers (20.6% of the US population) are interested in non-traditional unattended shopping experiences, but just 14.4 million (6.1%) make them,” ​the report noted.

“The disconnect between consumers’ interest in and usage of such solutions suggests that some consumers do not use them simply because they are not available.”

Speed of use and not talking to store employees drives unattended traffic

Among the increasing amount of consumers seeking out unattended retail shopping options (e.g. cashier-less checkouts, self-serve kiosks, and vending machines), 49.4% say they do so because it's faster and 33% say they use these channels because they like to take their time while shopping without talking to employees.

In fact, Gen Z seemed to be the most likely to not want to engage in conversation during the checkout process as the survey found that “not having to talk to employees” ​ranked the highest among Gen Z (41%) followed by millennials (38%).

Also of note is that 37% of Gen Z respondents ranked enjoying using new technology as important, significantly higher than the 20% of millennials, 17% of Generation X and 12% of seniors and baby boomers who said the same.

The most common locations for unattended retail purchases are brick-and-mortar retail spots (15.6%) and grocery stores (13.4%). Additionally, 40% of respondents overall noted that a key reason for unattended use was the lack of other methods for purchase.

Food and beverage are top unattended retail purchases

The survey found that food and beverage items were the most popular products purchased by more than half of the participants in the three-months prior to the survey.  

According to the study, high-income consumers ($100,00+ annual income) are more most interested in unattended shopping experiences.

Many participants (38.4%) also expressed interest in buying non-traditional products from unattended channels, and said that they would be interested in purchasing health (82%) and beauty (64%) items from a vending machine if they were to be offered today.

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