At the head office of Monoprix in Clichy, Casino presented the 'BlackBox': it is the first autonomous store of the French retailer. In contrast with Amazon Go, no expensive cameras are used here. But that is also the weakness of the system.
With BlackBox, Casino becomes the first French distributor to officially launch its automated store concept. The store is 18 m² in size and offers space for around 300 sku’s. These are mainly snacks, household items and personal care products. "We started the first work a year and a half ago and the goal is to make the shopping experience more fluid," explains Lorraine Gentin, deputy director of innovation and digital transformation at Groupe Casino, to LSA. Over the past few weeks, the BlackBox has been extensively tested by Monoprix employees.
Remarkably, no app needs to be downloaded in order to shop. A credit card is sufficient to enter the store. Next, you take the desired items off the shelves and all you have to do is validate your purchase on a touch screen. Those who wish to receive an invoice can enter their e-mail address. Payment is made without contact.
Another very important difference with Amazon Go, for example, is the total absence of cameras. The racks in the BlackBox are equipped with hypersensitive scales, which can register the slightest weight change. Combined with the necessary artificial intelligence, the technology thus knows which product the customer has taken. The fact that the system is GDPR-proof and, in addition, a lot cheaper than a camera system, makes it naturally very attractive with a view to further commercialisation.
Nevertheless, there are also some weaknesses. For example, the system cannot distinguish between products that are very similar, such as a bottle of normal cola and a bottle of cola zero. The only way to circumvent this problem is by placing the products concerned sufficiently far apart in the store. Another limitation is the number of customers that can be present at the same time. After all, the technology can only handle one shopping basket at a time. Therefore, if several customers were present, all the products would end up in the same virtual basket.
Monoprix plans to install 10 BlackBoxes within one to two years. Each container store will be linked to a physical store that will manage it, for maintenance and replenishment. In about 8 weeks, the BlackBox set up at the head office will change location and become accessible to the general public to undergo its first "live" test.