HUDSON, WI -- Three Square Market is taking a pioneering approach to micromarkets with the deployment of its first two self-checkout stores in which customers' only way to scan their product and pay is by using their smartphones. The micromarket maker said it anticipates opening at least a half dozen more kiosk-free stores within the next few months, and expects the model to find wider favor.
Three Square believes the mobile-only markets, launched this summer by full-line operators in Boston and Phoenix, are the only facilities of their kind in operation. Both are located at technology firms, each of which has about 70 employees and saw the smartphone-based checkout approach as a unique and convenient solution for their tech-savvy employees.
Users download the Three Square app on their Android or iOS mobile devices, set up an account and add value to establish a balance. They can then scan a product's barcode, using the phone's camera, to add it to their cart and then check out.
"The smartphone becomes the kiosk," explained Three Square vice-president Patrick McMullan. "They can buy products, add funds and check their balances at any time, all with their phones."
Three Square launched the app in late 2012. It is available to all of its micromarket users, and currently accounts for 17% of transactions in its growing base of locations, according to McMullan.
"The day will come, in the next decade, when credit cards won't exist, and more and more stores won't need a kiosk as the move to mobile makes it more feasible," McMullan predicted. "I wouldn't be surprised if, in the next two years, 50% of stores are cashless -- and many have no kiosk at all."
McMullan said Three Square is making strides in the vending channel, having opened 350 micromarkets in its first year. It's also taken its workplace kiosks international, with mini c-stores in operation in Australia and more launching in Canada and Central America in August.
Three Square Market is a subsidiary of Hudson, WI-based TW Vending. Its kiosk for the workplace market, launched in spring 2013, is a variation of TWV's corrections market kiosk, which allows inmates to send email, participate in video visitations and order commissary items, and their visitors to load money for commissary purchases, or for bail.
"It surprised us when we got into the vending market that 80% of operators are still not in the micromarket business, including some large companies," McMullan told VT. "Many are still hesitant to place the first one, but they never want to go back after they see the gains and the new customers they bring in by offering new, healthier products through a small-scale retail store in the workplace."