Tesco is testing a new “shop and go” technology that lets customers scan and pay for their groceries on their smartphone and then walk out of the store without visiting a till.
The move is similar to a scheme currently being tested by Amazon in the USA.
The retailer is running the trial at its Welwyn Garden City headquarters in a purpose-built Express convenience store on the site, which is currently only avaialble to its staff.
Tesco has installed the app, Scan Pay Go, on the mobiles of 100 staff who are able to use it to scan barcodes and then pay for their shopping.
“Using your mobile device you select some products, put them into your basket on your device and then just walk out of the store,” Steven Blair, Tesco’s convenience transformation director told reporters.
“The feedback is very good on it but it’s super early,” said Blair.
Tesco Chief Executive Dave Lewis said although the Welwyn trial was scalable, security implications had to be considered as there was a danger of increased product theft.
“If the margin in the business is 2 or 3 percent, you don’t have to lose much to make it unprofitable,” he said.
Tesco is not the first supermarket to trial cashierless initiative to improve its customer experience.
The Co-op has already introduced pay-in-the aisle technology, while Sainsbury’s tested a similar app in 2017.
Meanwhile, Amazon opened a checkout-free grocery store in Seattle to the public in January. The store, called Amazon Go, relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back. Cash registers and checkout lines become superfluous – customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file.
“A new era of convenient shopping”
Patrick Munden, Global Head of Retail at global ecommerce consultancy Salmon, a Wunderman Commerce Company, coomented on the move: “Tesco’s trial of “shop and go” technology is a perfect example of the evolution of traditional bricks and mortar stores towards a new era of convenient shopping. Regardless of whether the purchase is made in-store or online, consumers are demanding speed, convenience and a user-friendly experience – this new technology is a direct reflection of this shift in consumer behaviour.
“We have already seen this technology with the likes of Amazon Go, and while the online giant has employed an “aggressive horizontality” approach – dipping its toes in TV, grocery, etc. – in a bid to grow in each and every industry, Amazon is increasingly finding pushback against some of its initiatives. For instance, BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are all launching their own streaming service to combat Prime Video, Marks & Spencer trialled its own 1-hour delivery service and, of course, Tesco is now taking on Amazon with its checkout-less technology in response to Amazon Go.
“In addition to the physical element of “shop and go”, it demonstrates how fresh and innovative thinking can address historic friction points. For all retailers in every industry and every channel, this is a wake-up call to start offering customers a better, frictionless experience that puts the consumer in charge. Amazon is already leading the way in this technology but other retailers need to seriously play catch-up or risk being left behind in this retail rat race.”