You're already running five minutes late — but you desperately need a bite to eat. You swing into the nearest convenience store, grab a sandwich and walk right out.
Figuring out this type of in-and-out shopping experience was a major theme at this week's National Retail Federation convention in New York. The conference came one month after Amazon teased a futuristic convenience store that eliminates the checkout and will open to the public early this year.
The store, called Amazon Go, uses cameras and sensors to detect when an item is pulled from the shelf. Though the online seller has been mum on the details for how its store will work — or what it will cost — retail and technology experts concluded that the concept could be replicated by traditional retailers.
Yet with one of those firms estimating the cost to be millions of dollars per store, retailers are instead looking for ways to bring some of its attributes into the real world.
"We see much more effective solutions to getting to the same benefits," Brendan O'Meara, managing director of Microsoft's retail division, told CNBC.
One example is the Skip app, which was built on Microsoft's Azure platform. It allows shoppers to scan their groceries as they move through the store, and check out on their mobile device. Users are subject to an audit as they exit the shop, similar to what's done at Costco. However, the more shoppers accurately use the Skip app, the less likely they are to be audited.
Because this technology relies mostly on a customer's smartphone and a product's bar code, it costs "pennies on the dollar" to a fully equipped smart store, O'Meara said. Skip is being tested by Macey's, a regional grocery chain in Utah. The concept is similar to the Scan & Go technology being used across Sam's Club stores.