Sainsbury’s joins the cashless-stores revolution

Sainsbury’s is testing out a mobile shopping service at its Clapham North Station Local store in London.
20 August 2018

The cashless revolution is finally here. Source: Shutterstock

Smartphone-wielding customers can scan their shopping as they go along and then pay via the SmartShop app, using Apple Pay, thus avoiding those pesky checkout queues.

The move builds on the use of SmartShop at 68 Sainsbury’s supermarkets, with over 100,000 transactions and between 3,000 and 4,000 new customer registrations every week.

“Technology and changing customer shopping habits have transformed the way people buy their groceries,” said Sainsbury’s Group Chief Digital Officer, Clodagh Moriarty.

“We’re delighted to be the first grocery retailer in the UK to offer customers the ability to shop checkout-free. The latest version of SmartShop, with its new payment feature, will make it super quick for customers to get in and out of the store for those that want to scan, pay and go.”

The retailer is looking to improve the service so it can be rolled out to more locations in the coming months. Meanwhile, Tesco launched its own trial in June. Staff at its Welwyn Garden City HQ are using its Scan Pay Go service in a purpose-built Express store. Throw in Amazon Go and Alibaba’s Futuremart initiative and you’ve got quite the cashless -stores revolution brewing.

But do shoppers really want this? ‘

“We’re finding that some consumers still prefer the reassurance of human interaction – and this need should not be ignored,” said Manu Tyagi, Associate Partner for Retail, Infosys Consulting.

The human touch is still very much important for many consumers. Source: Shutterstock

For instance, in 2015 Morrisons reintroduced human-staffed checkouts for small shopping baskets – a move away from the wave of automated, self-service tills that have swept the UK.

“It turns out that people quite enjoy their everyday interactions with the smiling, familiar checkout operator, advice from a knowledgeable shop assistant, or just bumping into a friend in the local supermarket queue,” said Tyagi.

“While the way we shop is becoming amplified by technology, it’s important not to underestimate the power of human interaction. With the future of retail nearly here, the real question is how to ensure it remains appealing and convenient for future consumers.”

Sainsbury’s is wisely keeping manned and self-service check-outs at the trial store. The service should work well with low basket spends and low item counts where customers’ time is at a premium. But perhaps not so well with larger baskets.

Either way, forcing new technology on all customers will probably alienate more than it wins over. Providing choice will ultimately encourage more shoppers to try the new payment offering.

There is, meanwhile, obvious room for improvement. As PayTech expert Geoffrey Barraclough observed on Twitter:

“First download an app. Then link it to your Nectar card. And learn how to open your phone, summon the app and take a scan with one hand while holding the item in the other. The UX is not better than a well-run self-checkout. And if you want to buy a can of beer, then what?”

Retailers must move away from implementing gimmicky technology and focus on solutions that fuel seamless shopping experiences. Expect some tweaks from Sainsbury’s before any decision is made on a wider roll-out.