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Scan&Go: Shopping in the time of Covid

Peter Griffin, Contributor. 22 September 2020, 2:39 pm
Scan&Go: Shopping in the time of Covid

Supermarket chain Countdown is trialling a new AI-powered contactless system that lets a shopper pay for their goods and check-out out all from a smartphone.

The Scan&Go technology does away with the self check-out kiosk entirely with customers scanning items as they wander about the store and automatically paying for them digitally when they leave.

The only contact throughout the process is for fresh fruit and vegetables that needs to be weighed - a set of hi-tech scales use image recognition to detect what you place on the scales and will calculate the amount and add it to the shopping list. 

It essentially means that shoppers can bag up their purchases as they go, saving stopping off at the check-out area, a highly congested spot at peak times. The key driver at the moment is the physical distancing that accompanies pandemic lockdowns.


But Countdown says the momentum was already there for a better in-store shopping experience.

"Just like the online space, in-store customers are looking for innovation too," says Sally Copland, the supermarket clain's general manager of brand and CountdownX, its digital arm. 

The technology is being trialled at Countdown's Ponsonby store, which was apparently selected for the lunchtime crowd that it attracts. Customers exit the store through a dedicated lane and receive a QR-coded receipt, says Copland.

"At the moment there's an understandable focus on physical distancing and minimising contact, but even without that, the option to have your bags in the trolley as you shop reduces time spent shopping which is particularly handy for customers popping in and out, or if you're like me and juggling kids who tend to get restless once it's time to head for the checkout."

A wave of contactless shopping innovation

Countdown's solution has similarities to Amazon Go, the check-out free supermarket stores the e-commerce operator has been trialling where everything in store is done via a smartphone. Tech Blog reported in April on Auckland-based start-up IMAGR, which is also using computer vision and artificial intelligence to detect goods placed in a supermarket basket so that a shopping bill can automatically be generated without visiting a checkout kiosk.

This wave of innovation in contactless shopping driven by the Covid-19 pandemic has been mirrored around the world. US grocery store chains Price Chopper, Wegmans and Giant Eagle have all rolled out app-based contactless shopping systems that avoid a visit to a cashier on the way out.

With the US about to pass the inglorious threshold of 200,000 Covid deaths and a surge in numbers possible as the autumn weather cools, contactless shopping is set to become even more popular. Polling company Ipsos in June surveyed 2,000 American consumers, and found 62 per cent of them would stop shopping at a retailer not taking health and safety seriously.

Contactless shopping then may be set to become a major point of difference as people around the world continue to live with the virus and attempt to lessen their chances of falling victim to the virus.



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