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Supermarkets to be ‘checkout free’ by 2030

The future of Australian shopping. Photo: GGH

Australian supermarkets will become ‘checkout free’ within 10 years, according to a Coles executive.

New technologies, driven by automation and artificial intelligence, are beginning to transform the Australian shopping landscape and this shift is only predicted to increase by 2030.

‘SEAMLESS SHOPPING’

A Coles executive has claimed Australian supermarkets will become checkout free within 10 years, as automation technologies and artificial intelligence continue to advance.

In a recent interview, Coles Head of Commercial and Express Greg Davis said he believed some Aussie shoppers would be able to do their grocery shop without using a checkout by 2030.

“I have no doubt in the next 10 years, customers will be able to take the product off the shelf, put it in their basket, walk out and have it all paid for,” Mr Davis said.

By allowing customers to shop and leave stores without going through a checkout, Coles will further advance their target to cut $1 billion from its cost base through automation.

“We’ve seen technology transform the shopping experience over the past 10 years to make it more convenient and tailored to individual needs.”

Under this system, shoppers walking into a store would scan their phone on a train-station-like turnstile, connecting their presence in the store (as well as fellow shoppers) with their profile.

Shortly after, artificial intelligence, sensors and data are used to detect what customers pick up and put in their bags, before being charged to their accounts on exit from the store.

It is this “almost seamless” shopping experience that Mr Davis is predicting for Coles stores over the next decade, following the success of self-serve checkouts and online shopping in Australia.

Ritchies Supermarkets CEO Fred Harrison told the media he believed checkout-free supermarket options would be rolled out in greater force soon.

The chain has described the new shopping system as ‘exciting’ and are expected to follow through on their plan by exploring technologies already introduced by companies like Amazon.

FOLLOWING AMAZON

The checkout-free concept has created a buzz in recent years, especially after online retail giant Amazon began trialling its groundbreaking Amazon Go concept store in the US in 2018.

The store offers a shopping ‘experience’ with no lines or checkouts, allowing customers to “simply take what they want and go” and has since been rolled out to several locations in the US.

Boxy, black cameras in the ceilings don’t have the look of classic surveillance cameras — despite hundreds of them across the 1,800-square-foot space — but they operate in a similar way, tracking shopper movement and what items they pick up or put back down.

Items have large, camera-friendly codes to help the cameras understand which items have been grabbed and computers combine that information with data from sensors installed in every shelf.

When shoppers are done, they simply walk back out through the porcelain-white turnstiles and their phone updates with a receipt, along with a “trip timer” telling them how long they spent in-store.

Amazon has not shared details on the methods involved in its “Just Walk Out” technology, but says it mimics some of the techniques seen in self-driving cars, including machine-learning systems that improve over time, as well as computer vision, the image-processing technology used on Facebook.

Alvaro Bedoya, the Executive Director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University’s Law School, said “it’s highly likely” that Amazon Go collects “more information than any retail setting out there now”.

The NSW Transport Minister cited this program when speaking on the future of NSW public transport, which has revealed facial recognition is set for trains and buses across the network.

The minister said he expected commuters to use “frictionless transport payments” in the “not too distant future”, using similar to methods of tracking employed in Amazon stores.

The comments by Coles follow is yet another move in an ongoing pathway for supermarkets in Australia, who have been exploring further ways to introduce automation and AI into their systems.

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SUPERMARKET AUTOMATION

The future of Australian distribution. Photo: Ocado

The new moves by Australian supermarket giants signify an increasing trend in a shift to automated workforces, which many experts warn will have significant implications for the current job market.

Both Woolworths and Coles have already gotten the ball rolling on their checkout-free stores, and is also working alongside companies to build robotic warehouses.

It is forecasted that industrial warehouses across main cities will increase to be as much as 200,000 square metres in size, due to increasing populations across the country.

Coles struck a deal with British online supermarket group Ocado to run its automated website and distribution warehouses by 2023, which will double home-delivery capacity.

Woolworths has also implemented the beginning stages of their new automated distribution warehouse, after completion of the facility in September 2018.

Furthermore, the company has recently started testing a system called ‘Scan&Go’ that allows customers to scan each item on their phone and pay digitally before they leave.

Supermarket giants and their plans to transform shopping experiences over the coming years will include combining analytics and artificial intelligence to make each store’s products ‘tailor-made’. 

An analysis from the Committee of Economic Development of Australia warns more than five million jobs could disappear in the next 10 to 15 years because of such technological advancements.

Couple all of this with Australia’s ongoing shift towards a cashless society and the very nature of our shopping experiences are set to be completely changed over the next decade.

The real question is: Is it really what the people of Australia want?


RELATED CONTENT

‘Customers will just walk out’: Coles exec flags ‘checkout-free’ shopping within 10 years | SMH.com.au

People are lining up to shop at Amazon Go’s new ‘queue-free’ concept store | News.com.au

Inside Amazon Go: The camera-filled convenience store that watches you back | The Washington Post

Supermarkets begin switch to automated workforces | TOTT News



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