In pictures: Aldi opens a cashierless supermarket in Utrecht

After months of testing, the first Aldi Shop and take cashless on the European continent opens to the public this Wednesday. The retailer stresses that this is a pilot project and that deployment is still a long way off.

No hybrid model

Customers at the Aldi Shop&Go on the Lange Viestraat in Utrecht no longer have to queue at the checkout: there is no checkout. This is the first Aldi “by app only” on the European continent. Buyers must download the app and add their credit card details. To enter the store they must enter a QR code, as in Amazon Go. Aldi did not opt ​​for a hybrid model: without a mobile application, you do not enter.

Then you can take with you the products you want: 475 cameras and 450 scales record your purchases. To exit the store, you need to scan a QR code again. Payment follows automatically. “We want to make our customers’ shopping experience as easy as possible,” says Jan Oostvogels, the Belgian who has been CEO of Aldi Netherlands since 2020. “This project fits perfectly with our core values. »

The project started fourteen months ago. Since Aldi does not have this insider knowledge, the retailer turned to the services of technology partner Trigo Vision. The choice of Utrecht is explained by the need to have a place with a lot of traffic and the fact that the Dutch have an affinity for technology.

privacy first

This is a pilot project, emphasizes Oostvogels. “You will not see a 100% finished product here. It is a self-learning system, based on artificial intelligence. We’ve tested it extensively to catch early issues and we’ll make it smarter with our customers by adding more data. »

The big challenges for Aldi are security and privacy. “For example: how to guarantee that a minor cannot buy alcohol? We put the wine and beer in a separate part of the store, behind an extra door. Here we verify your age. »

Since Aldi uses cameras, data security must be 300% guaranteed, Oostvogels said. “In no way do we carry out personal identification. We also do not use facial recognition or eye scanners. The cameras only track the movement of people and items. All data disappears again after the shopping trip. »

nowhere so easy

“In no other place do you know how to do your shopping so easily,” says the protagonist. That’s absolutely true, although not being able to see what the system has logged while shopping is a bit of an inconvenience. Therefore, he also cannot control his budget as he would with a classic automatic scan. “We’re working on it,” says the retailer. Payment options other than credit card will also be added.

Aldi had already announced plans to open a cashierless store in Utrecht on October 1, 2021. The store is normally expected to open in early 2022, but testing has taken longer. “We embarked on this project without a specific timeline, so it’s not about delays,” says Oostvogels. He wants to take the time for an evaluation. “We will see what we can do with that in the long term in the rest of our stores. »

On the trail of Amazon

Since the opening of the first Amazon UK In 2018, more retailers are testing cashless or staffless store concepts. They hope to provide consumers with a seamless shopping experience combined with extended store hours. After all, consumer expectations are rising, but retailers are struggling with staff shortages and high labor costs.

In the United Kingdom, Aldi South It already has a very similar Shop&Go cashless store: initially reserved for employees, it opened to the general public in January in Greenwich, London. “We went there to take a look, of course, but our project is separate from what colleagues at Aldi Süd are doing. »

Tesco Y Sainsbury’s they have also opened cashless shops in the UK. Tesco uses Trigo’s technology, as does Net Y Rewe in Germany. Sainsbury’s uses Amazon Go technology. alberto heijn used AiFi technology for its cashless ‘AH to go’ store. In Paris, Crossing opened Flash 10/10, where customers only need ten seconds to buy and another ten seconds to pay. And in Ghent, Colruyt try a shop with no staff called very direct. The retailer has developed the necessary technology itself.

Dennis Alvarado

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