In what it claims is a UK first, Sainsbury’s is trialling new scan, pay, and go technology in one of its London stores, removing the need for customers to queue at checkouts.
The retailer’s SmartShop app allows customers at its Clapham North tube station Local branch to use their smartphones to scan items as they pick them up, then pay for their goods using Apple Pay, by scanning a QR code at the store’s exit (meaning the trial is currently restricted to iPhone users).
SmartShop is already supported by 68 Sainsbury’s supermarkets. However, they currently require shoppers to pay at a designated till point. The Clapham trial takes the technology one step further.
Sainsbury’s has revealed that there are now over 100,000 SmartShop transactions and 3,000 to 4,000 new registrations every week, highlighting the enthusiasm for the app among customers for whom frictionless retail is an increasingly attractive concept.
Meanwhile, in-store contactless payments are also rising, with transactions valued at $2 trillion expected worldwide by 2020, representing one in three of all in-store purchases.
Convenience is king
Sainsbury’s Group chief digital officer, Clodagh Moriarty, said, “Technology and changing customer shopping habits have transformed the way people buy their groceries.
“Our teams are constantly working hard to bring new convenient shopping experiences to customers, and we’re delighted to be the first grocery retailer in the UK to offer customers the ability to shop checkout-free.
The latest version of SmartShop, with its new payment feature, will make it super quick for customers to get in and out of the store for those that want to scan, pay, and go.”
Shoppers who favour existing checkout methods will still be able to use both self-serve and manned checkouts in the Clapham store. Sainsbury’s will then assess customer feedback to fine-tune and develop the experience before expanding the trial to further store types and locations.
The SmartShop app was developed in house, with an emphasis on helping customers to save time and shop more conveniently, said Sainsbury’s in an announcement his morning.
The Clapham trial follows testing in a store at Euston railway station in London, which allowed customers to scan and pay for up to three items included in a Sainsbury’s ‘meal deal’ offer.
Internet of Business says
There’s no doubting the convenience of scan and go technology when negotiating a busy store at peak times. However, there are two elephants in the room when it comes to Sainsbury’s strategy.
The first is that the new service may facilitate shoplifting.
Sainsbury’s Moriarty admitted as much when she told the BBC, “When we design something like this, it is for the 99 percent of our customers who are honest.” An admirably candid remark – suggesting that Sainsbury’s has calculated that any losses to the system would be more than made up by extra custom, brand loyalty, and/or reduced in-store costs.
Which brings us to the second issue: what SmartShop could mean for Sainsbury’s employees. At present, Sainsbury’s is saying that the technology will not replace any staff in the trial store – but whether this holds true in a wider rollout seems doubtful.
Other challenges to overcome include: the selling of alcohol and other restricted or security-tagged items, such as medicines. These already pose problems at self-scan checkouts in all supermarkets and pharmacies, which has relegated some staff members to robot-assistant roles.
But ultimately, these issues are about identifying friction points and working with staff and customers to develop new best practices for making retail processes as seamless as possible.
However, despite its claims, Sainsbury’s isn’t the only UK retailer pursuing scan and go technology. In March, the Co-op announced its own plans for trialling frictionless smartphone payments.
With the affordability and popularity of recent entrants, such as Lidl, Aldi, and other low-cost outlets, eating into the market share of the UK’s supermarket giants, the big high street names are having to find other ways to differentiate themselves.
Making shopping more convenient is a sound strategy to pursue, given the fast-paced lifestyles that many city-dwellers pursue, and the ‘need it now’ mentality encouraged by one-click online shopping.
In the US, Amazon is employing a more advanced solution for its own physical Amazon Go store: its system detects products that have been moved, places them in a virtual cart, and knows once customers have left the premises.
Meanwhile, Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer – and the biggest company by revenue – is also exploring a range of frictionless technologies, according to recent patent filings.