Innovation, Retail

“Signal to the future”: Woolies unveils checkout-free trial with new ‘scan and go’ tech

Matthew Elmas /

checkout

Experts say the retail industry will be keeping a close eye on this trial. Source: Supplied.

Supermarket chain Woolworths has unveiled a new checkout-free grocery experience that retail experts say could usher in a new style of shopping in Australia.

The grocery giant will run a limited trial of its “Scan&Go” technology from its Double Bay store in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, allowing Woolworths rewards members to scan and pay for items using an app.

In a trial that will run over the next few months, customers will scan product barcodes as they shop and when leaving the store will use their phones to “tap off” at a dedicated checkout, which will charge a linked debit or credit card.

The move will bring a new type of retail experience into the Australian market, amid the ongoing expansion of Amazon’s no checkout grocery stores in the US.

Local retailers are expected to watch the trial closely, while Woolies hopes to assess the consumer response and viability of the technology.

Woolworths Group’s head of payments, Paul Monnington, said the trial will enable the chain to explore new ways to make shopping more convenient.

“We believe smartphone technology and mobile payments have the potential to transform the shopping experience for our customers in the future,” Monnington said in a statement on Thursday.

“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.”

checkout

“This is clearly a signal to the future.” Supplied.

Amazon made headlines around the world earlier this year when it launched its first checkout-free grocery store in Seattle, under the Amazon Go model.

The e-commerce giant reported customers lining up to enter the store, and has since opened several more locations in the city.

Woolworths decision to explore the technology in Australia is just the first step in a move towards more tech focused retail experiences Down Under, according to retail expert and chief executive of the Retail Doctor Group Brian Walker.

“This is clearly a signal to the future,” Walker told SmartCompany.

Walker believes other retailers, particularly those in categories that lend themselves to convenience, will watch Woolworths’ trial with great interest.

“Where a product is high volume, low human touch, I think this technology will do well,” he says.

Walker singled out convenience stores, general merchandise retailers and discount department stores as possible beneficiaries of the technology.

checkout

Shoppers will be charged after “tapping off” when exiting the store. Supplied.

University of Tasmania’s Louise Grimmer says convenience has become a competitive pressure for retailers and adopting innovative solutions to make shopping easier is becoming increasingly important.

“Retailers of all sizes will be watching this development very closely and paying attention to customer reaction to this type of technology,” she told SmartCompany.

“As the technology becomes more commonplace, it will become cheaper and more cost effective for retailers of all sizes.

“We will see more and more of this type of approach to providing the most convenient shopping experience for customers.”

That’s not to say the retail checkout is going anywhere though; both Grimmer and Walker believe traditional shopping will continue to play a vital role in the industry.

“You aren’t going to buy a Louis Vuitton jumper by scanning with your phone,” Walker says.

“Shoppers who don’t have smartphones or who aren’t confident using this type of technology will still prefer to shop in the traditional way,” Grimmer explains.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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