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Is till-free the way forward?

Published: 3 May 2019 - Fiona Garcia

This week saw Sainsbury's launch the first-ever till-free store in the UK and Argos open its first self-service digital store. But some experts ask if digitalising the way consumers shop enough of a solution for bricks-and-mortar stores? 

On Monday, shoppers visiting the Holborn Circus Sainsbury's Local branch were be able to experience the first completely till-free store, which meant customers were only able to check out via their mobile phones in the latest trial to speed up shopping experiences. 

The store has been redesigned, eliminating tills and check outs and the experiment will be testing SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go technology that claims to be "making grocery shopping quicker and more convenient". 

Explaining the choice of location, Sainsbury’s revealed that 82% of transactions in this store are currently cashless. The removal of the checkout area and tills is designed to free up store colleagues to spend their time on the shop floor, helping customers and keeping shelves fully stocked. The store does also have a helpdesk to support anyone who wishes to pay with cash or cards.

The grocery giant explained that customer feedback from the experiment will help the business develop the SmartShop Scan, Pay & Go app further before being rolled out more widely.” 

Sainsbury’s group chief digital officer Clodagh Moriarty, said “We know our customers value their time and many want to shop as quickly as possible - technology is key to that. This is an experiment rather than a new format for us - it hasn’t been done in the UK before and we’re really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience. We’ll be with our customers and colleagues all the way over the coming months, iterating continuously based on their feedback before we decide if, how and where we make this experience more widely available.”

Meanwhile, Argos’ first self-service store in Sainsbury’s Dulwich sees customers pay at the same tablet they use to browse the catalogue’s 20,000 products – removing the need to visit a separate checkout area to pay – before picking up their order at new collection pods. The launch comes as the retailer reaches over £2billion sales generated through customers shopping on mobile devices and, across Sainsbury’s Group, £4.7billion sales are now generated online.

The quicker and more convenient payment process in the Dulwih store aims to free up store colleagues to be on hand to help customers at the Pay@Browse areas and bring products to collection pods. The Pay@Browse areas will also include tills to support anyone who wishes to pay with cash or cards.

Sainsbury’s Argos CEO John Rogers, said: “Having launched nearly 300 Argos stores in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, we’re making it easier and more convenient for customers to do more of their shopping under one roof. We’re continuing to test innovative new formats and with the launch of our first self-service digital store we’re offering shoppers a speedier way to pay and giving our colleagues more time to serve and help customers. We’re excited to hear what they think of our latest in-store innovation.”

Last month Argos launched a new visual search service in the Argos iOS app, enabling customers to shop for homewares and furniture using images on their smartphones. In September last year Argos became the first UK retailer to offer a shopping service via the Google Assistant platform with the launch of Voice Shop, enabling customers to reserve Argos products using voice technology. Sainsbury’s was the first UK supermarket to offer till-free shopping alongside standard checkouts in August last year. 

However, whilst Ubamarket CEO and founder Will Broome is pleased to see retailers taking the next step in digitalisation, he believes they need to go further. He said: “It is encouraging to see big retailers such as Sainsbury's trialling Scan, Pay & Go technology in stores. Such implementation poses many benefits for retailers and consumers alike. As shoppers, we value our time and technology is essential in speeding up the in-store shopping experience. As Ubamarket research has revealed, 53% of shoppers prioritise convenience as they shop in stores. Incorporating retail tech into a store's offering not only secures their bricks and mortar presence but keeps convenience at the forefront for consumers.

“Is till-free shopping enough? Consumers may not be aware that this technology has the capacity to save them money as well as time. Personalised in-store offers and real-time loyalty updates are well within the capacity for this technology and it is essential that retailers implement these additions. If retailers are going to digitalise shopping then they should allow shoppers to add their shopping lists to the apps, be guided around the store and get more information about the products that they're shopping. While a great step forward, just being able to scan and go is insufficient - it is crucial to include the full capabilities of this kind of technology.”




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