While many people are still getting used to the self-serve technology, Woolworths has taken the next innovative step and launched a trial of check out-free shopping in Sydney, in a move it says could “transform the shopping experience”.
The trial will involve lucky customers scanning items through a smartphone app and automatically paying for them when they leave the store, completely bypassing even the self-serve checkouts.
The “shop and go” trial will take place at the Double Bay Woolworths store in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, and will be open only to a few thousand loyalty members.
It’s a big move from Australia’s largest supermarket chain, with the trial starting this week.
Woolworths head of digital and payments Paul Monnington said the trial is about getting feedback from real shoppers.
“We believe smartphone technology and mobile payments have the potential to transform the shopping experience for our customers in the future,” Monnington told news.com.au. “This trial is not only about testing new technology, it’s also about seeing how our customers and teams respond to a completely new style of shopping.”
It’s about making grocery shopping an easier and quicker experience for Australians, Monnington said.
“We’re getting feedback from customers who are busier and busier, and they’re using their mobile phones all the time,” he said. “So we’re looking at actually making that shopping experience better and more convenient for them, and actually bringing the mobile into the world.”
Participants in the trial will have to download the Scan&Go app, which they can use to scan the barcodes of items as they shop, allowing them to track their spending as they go. There will also be specially-designed scales available to weigh and scan fresh produce.
Shoppers will then be able to “tap off” as they exit the store, with money automatically deducted from a linked credit or debit card.
The technology was developed by Woolworths’ own internal innovation team, called WooliesX. The company has said it will “assess future options” once the trial has been completed.
While the trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, it’s a concept that has already been tested around the world.
Late last year, Amazon launched its own checkout-free store in Seattle in the US, with the technology more advanced than that being trialled by Woolworths.
In the Amazon Go store, shoppers can enter, select what items they want and leave, without even needing to scan them. Using “deep learning algorithms, computer vision and sensor fusion”, the store can tell what items a shopper takes and charges them automatically.
An Italian supermarket chain, Coop Italia, is trialling shopping using augmented reality technology through large interactive tables displaying products. Shoppers are able to use simple hand gestures to display information about the product through augmented reality, with the info including origins, nutritional facts, allergens and various promotions.
Chinese retail giant Alibaba has rolled out a network of supermarkets where customers can self-scan items, and have them delivered to their homes within 30 minutes.