retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Wakefern Food Corp., the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the U.S., yesterday announced a deal with Trigo, an Israel-based computer vision company, "to pilot an autonomous supermarket making use of Trigo's AI-based frictionless checkout technology … Trigo transforms existing supermarkets and grocers into fully autonomous, digital stores, combining their technology with Trigo computer vision to create a seamless shopping experience. Applying Trigo's GDPR compliant technology to various locations will allow retailers to successfully scale their business while maintaining their unique character and layout. Shoppers use an app to scan a QR code as they enter, and then will be free to pick up items and leave without having to checkout – there is no exit gate."

The announcement says that "following numerous successful launches with some of the top 10 ranking European industry partners like the UK's Tesco and Germany's REWE, Aldi NORD and Netto, owned by The EDEKA Group – the Wakefern announcement marks Trigo's first foray into the U.S."

KC's View:

I said from the moment I saw the first Amazon Go store in Seattle that this technology eventually be as widespread and as impactful as scanning … and I'll stick with that assessment.  I'm just guessing that it may happen faster than I would've expected.

It's interesting … The Guardian had a story the other day about how technology is driving supermarket innovation.

An excerpt:

"Welcome to the supermarkets of the future. They may look and feel like the supermarkets we are all used to – and stock the same bread, butter and bananas – but these shops are now fitted out with more than £1m of the latest technology that their bosses promise will put an end to our biggest frustration (queueing) and our most persistent crime (shoplifting)."

At stores created by companies ranging from Amazon to Tesco, and powered by technology companies like Standard Cognition, "there are no checkouts (self-scanning or traditional), no checkout assistants, and – in theory – no chance of shoplifting … First, you must download an app, register a credit card and scan a QR code on your phone to enter through train station-style gates. Barriers prevent those without the app from entering the shop. Once inside, the technology follows you around the store recording every item you pick up (and put back). When you’re done you just walk out and after a few minutes your phone alerts you as to how much you’ve spent.

"The supermarkets say time-pressed, easily frustrated people are crying out for a better, hassle-free shopping experience, and if these trial stores are successful they will roll out the technology across the country."

The story notes that "research backs up the retailers’ hunch about our frustrations with shopping. A recent survey by packaging company DS Smith found that more than a third of 2,000 people polled would walk out of the store rather than wait five minutes in a checkout queue, and 46% said they were so irritated by queuing that they would consider not coming back to the shop again … Many of us are now so impatient that waiting a few minutes for a checkout assistant to become free can feel like an unacceptable hassle in a world where technology dominates and instant gratification is expected."

Unacceptable hassles are going to become even more unacceptable with every passing day, especially as some retailers find ways to reduce friction, creating pressure on competitors to find and implement their own solutions.

It'll happen slowly, then suddenly, to paraphrase Ernest Hemingway.