After months of testing, Aldi will open its first cashless Shop&Go on the European continent to the public on Wednesday. This is a pilot, the retailer emphasises: a roll-out is still a long way off.
No hybrid model
Customers of the Shop&Go in Utrecht do not have to queue at the cash register: there is none. This is the first “app-only” Aldi on the European mainland: shoppers have to download the app and add their credit card details. To enter the shop, they have to enter a QR code, akin to the entry procedure at Amazon Go. Aldi did not choose for a hybrid model: without an app you do not get in.
You can then take the products you want, as 475 cameras and 450 scales register your purchases. To walk out of the shop, you scan a QR code again. Payment follows automatically. “We want to make the shopping experience for our customers as simple as possible”, Jan Oostvogels says. The Belgian has been CEO of Aldi Netherlands since 2020, and is thrilled with the trial: “This project fits perfectly within our core values.”
The project started fourteen months ago. As Aldi Nord does not have the knowledge in-house, the retailer contracted technology partner Trigo Vision. Utrecht, located centrally in the Netherlands, was chosen because of the need for a high traffic location, and because the Dutch have an affinity with technology.
Privacy before everything
This is a pilot project, Oostvogels emphasises. “You will not see a completely finished product here. It is a self-learning system, based on artificial intelligence. We have tested it extensively for teething problems and are going to make this smarter together with our customers by adding more data.”
The big challenges for Aldi are security and privacy. “For example: how do you guarantee that a minor cannot buy alcohol here? We put wine and beer in a separate part of the shop, behind an extra gate where we check your age.”
Because Aldi uses cameras, privacy is paramount, Oostvogels said. “We do not do personal identification in any way. Nor do we use facial recognition or eye scans. The cameras only follow the movement of people and articles. All data disappear again after the shopping trip.”
Easiest shopping anywhere
“Nowhere can you do your shopping so easily”, the CEO claims. While that is absolutely true, although it feels a little awkward that you can not see while shopping what the system has registered in terms of purchases – so you can not keep an eye on your budget like you would with a classic self-scan either. “We are working on that”, the retailer says. Other payment options than the credit card will also be added.
Aldi had already announced the plans for a cashless shop in Utrecht on 1 October 2021. Normally, the shop would open its doors in early 2022, but testing took more time. “We have stepped into this project without a clear timeline, so there is no question of delay”, Oostvogels told RetailDetail. He does not want to rush the evaluation: “We are going to see what we can do with this in the long run in the rest of our shops.”
Since the first Amazon Go opened in 2018, more retailers have been testing cashless or unmanned shop concepts. In this way, they hope to offer consumers a seamless shopping experience, combined with extended opening hours. After all, shoppers’ expectations are getting higher, but retailers are struggling with staff shortages and high labour costs.
In the United Kingdom, Aldi Süd already has a very similar cashless Shop&Go shop. It was initially only open to employees, but opened to the general public in January in London. “We went there to have a look, of course, but our project is independent of what the colleagues at Aldi Süd are doing.”
Also in Britan, Tesco and Sainsbury have also opened cashless shops. Tesco uses Trigo’s technology, as do Netto and Rewe in Germany. Sainsbury uses Amazon Go technology. In the Netherlands, Albert Heijn used AiFi technology for its cashless AH to go container shop. In Paris, Carrefour opened Flash 10/10, where shoppers only need ten seconds to shop, and another ten seconds to pay. And in Ghent, Colruyt is testing an unmanned shop called Okay Direct. The Belgian retailer developed the technology for this itself.