Ahold Delhaize USA Pilots Frictionless Store
Retail Business Services LLC, the services company of Ahold Delhaize USA, has rolled out new frictionless store technology, piloted under the name Lunchbox, which permits consumers to quickly shop a small-format store by scanning in, shopping and walking out. The technology is now being tested in Retail Business Services’ Quincy, Mass., office.
For the project, the company teamed up with digital transformation solutions provider UST Global. Retail Business Services provided application development, technology connectivity and food retail operations expertise, while UST Global and its partners offered the artificial intelligence (AI) technology solution and physical infrastructure for the store. The technology will be on display at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show this January, in collaboration with UST Global and Intel.
“Lunchbox is an easy, fresh shopping alternative,” said Paul Scorza, EVP, IT and CIO for Retail Business Services. “Once registered, shoppers simply scan in, shop and walk out. It’s that easy. And it offers fresh, healthy options 24/7. You can grab a snack, a salad, fresh fruit or even a carton of milk on your way home.”
According to Retail Business Services, Lunchbox is more efficient than other frictionless store concepts, as it carries a lean cost and can be implemented in just weeks.
“We believed in this concept so much we brought it to our own office,” continued Scorza. “Our cafeteria that serves more than 1,000 associates was being remodeled, and we were looking for a quick, cost-effective solution to give associates access to beverages, snacks and fresh items at a variety of hours. We implemented this solution in just six weeks. Today, thousands of shops, with groups of up to 12 in the store at the same time, have been successfully completed.”
The application technology for Lunchbox, developed in Retail Business Services’ innovation lab and tech hub, is powered by the company’s proprietary app, which lets shoppers into the store and charges them for purchases. To make payment easy, services such as PayPal, Venmo, Apply Pay and Google Pay are integrated into the wallet.
Within the store, AI running on Intel Core i5 and i7 processors-based systems optimized with the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit detects which products are being taken from shelves in the store and anonymous body skeletal tracking connects the correct products to the correct shopper. The toolkit enables Lunchbox to use existing Intel-based point-of-sale systems and deploy on-premise AI at maximum performance.
“In the age of ecommerce, there are many opportunities for companies to evolve and better serve shoppers,” said Mahesh Athalye, senior director at Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based UST Global. “Combined with AI/ML technology and purpose-built smartphone applications, solutions like Lunchbox will help deliver frictionless experiences for shoppers seeking a quick, touchless experience.”
Retail Business Services provides services to six East Coast grocery brands: Food Lion, Giant Food, Giant/Martin’s, Hannaford, and Stop & Shop, and online grocer Peapod. The company’s services include information technology, merchandising and marketing, private brands, pharmacy, sourcing, not for resale, stores, financial, legal, communications, supply chain and people. Parent company Ahold Delhaize USA is No. 4 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.