The pandemic has shined the spotlight on so-called frictionless shopping, and now UST is the latest company to step into the part.
The digital transformation solutions company has launched what it calls the UST Walk-In, Walk-Out frictionless shopping solution. This new contactless solution redefines customers’ relationships with retail by eliminating long checkout lines and waiting times, UST says. As a result, customers get a seamless shopping experience that allows them to walk into a store, grab their items and immediately walk out.
The technology behind UST Walk-In, Walk-Out is a unified integration of artificial intelligence (AI), sensors and cameras working together to enable the core features. Customers enter the store by scanning a QR code in the mobile app, selecting desired items from the shelves, and thereafter exiting the store, receiving their digital receipt in a matter of seconds. The solution implemented by UST can be installed and functional in a little as eight weeks.
“It’s all about accessibility, convenience, and most importantly — safety,” said Mahesh Athalye, senior director and go-to-market leader of UST Walk-In, Walk-Out. “With the solution, profits can be maximized and customer experience improved — all as a result of the 24/7 access, and no checkout lines. UST Walk-In, Walk-Out empowers companies to drive and reap the rewards of new technology and its impact on their bottom lines.”
Piloted with Retail Business Services, the services company of Ahold Delhaize USA, and another for a leading European grocery retailer, UST is implementing this end-to-end frictionless shopping solution for customers that include grocery retailers, convenience stores, cafeterias and grab-and-go food stores at airports and universities — in markets across the U.S., Asia and Europe. With the solution, retailers can integrate with other innovative retail technology solutions that UST offers such as UST Healthy Store, UST Chatbot and UST RapidCEL, among others.
“In this new normal, customers are concerned about their personal risk and those of their communities. The big challenge has been implementing this in a safe, fair and equitable way,” said Krishna Prasad, chief customer officer and head of retail, UST. “For businesses looking to drive profits, delight customers and gain a competitive edge, making an investment in frictionless shopping is the critical next step. It aligns with the new realities for global retailers to instill consumer confidence.”
The Amazon Go store concept is perhaps the most most famous example of frictionless, walk-out checkout in the food retail world, though UST illustrates how the technology is spreading.
Fueled by the pandemic and the associated spike in grocery e-commerce, food retailers are embracing new forms of payment. While the main thread linking these innovations is contactless technology, that doesn’t mean that one size will fit all — or that the acceptance of PayPal, Venmo or the myriad other cutting-edge payment forms will guarantee success as transactions become an ever more important part of the overall consumer experience.
The move toward more digital payments in retail continues to gain speed during the pandemic, a trend that will keep affecting grocery commerce. According to Inmar Intelligence, the most preferred forms of contactless checkout options among shoppers include curbside pickup (57%) and buy online and pick up in store (57%), followed by contactless, in-store self-checkout (56%).
Ahold Delhaize USA, a division of Zaandam, Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, is the parent company for Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. companies, consisting of Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Co., Hannaford, and Stop & Shop, as well as e-grocer Peapod; RBS, a U.S. support services company providing services to the brands; and Peapod Digital Labs, its e-commerce engine. Operating more than 2,000 stores across 23 states, Ahold Delhaize USA is No. 11 on The PG 100, PG’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in the United States.