I went to Aldi’s contact-free Amazon Go rival. I got charged for a tin of sweetcorn I didn’t leave the store with and buying alcohol was a weird experience — but I still had fun.

I bought alcohol at Aldi’s contact-free store.

Aldi has opened its first autonomous, contact-free store as a trial in the UK.
The sensor-operated store allows you to buy items without going through a checkout.
I visited the store and though it was fun to use, I experienced some teething problems.

Aldi has opened its first-ever contactless store.

The trial store allows you to buy items without going through a checkout. You simply scan an app to enter, pick up your items, and leave, and the money is automatically taken from your bank account.

The store, known as Aldi Shop & Go, is located in Greenwich, a commuter town close to the center of London and the Canary Wharf financial hub. I decided to check it out, and went two days in a row.Greenwich, London.

Amazon has been rolling out similar stores across London using its Just-Walk-Out technology, branded as Amazon Fresh stores in the UK and Amazon Go in the US. Aldi’s new store is just 2.5 miles from the nearest Amazon Fresh.An Amazon Fresh store.

From the outside, the Aldi store was perhaps a little underwhelming and not hugely visible from the main road it was on.

It was also just doors down from a Sainsbury’s store, which is one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains. One of the advantages of autonomous stores is that they can be built in “food deserts” – areas where people are far away from shops – and can be open 24/7 without the expense of keeping the store fully staffed, but neither of those were the case here.The neighboring Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Source: Insider

The store had been open for a week by the time I went. It had large banners outside …

… as well as a cordoned-off area to manage a line. Though there was no one waiting outside when I arrived, probably because the opening hype had died down a little.

There were lots of signs outside with information on how the store worked …

… and instructions on how to use the app, which was specific to this store and differed from the main Aldi app that some shoppers may already have.

I had already downloaded the Aldi Shop & Go before arriving at the store, and created an account, which involved filling in personal details and linking it to my bank account. There were staff members inside helping other people use the app – while I was there one person left the store after a staff member told them about the format of the store and explained that they’d need to download an app.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

Once you’ve got the app, you had to go through a tutorial explaining how the store worked. The app then generated a QR code that you swipe on the entry gates to get in.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

It look me a few attempts to swipe my phone properly, but I got through.The entry gates.

The store uses software from AiFi, which uses cameras to track which items customers are picking up in real-time. By making their stores autonomous, retailers need fewer staff and less checkout space, so they can operate smaller stores, like this compact store in Greenwich.

Source: Insider

Once I was past the gates, it seemed just like a normal Aldi shop.

There were four main aisles, selling a range of products from fresh produce …

… to cupboard staples …

… to alcohol.

The store sold largely Aldi-branded products …

… though there were a few recognizable brands.

Like at a regular Aldi, the products all have barcodes, although you don’t scan these at any point during your visit. I presumed they were used by staff for monitoring stock and sorting deliveries, and the products would have been made at a factory producing Aldi items for regular stores that need barcodes, anyway.The products still had barcodes.

The store was as busy as you’d expect on a weekday in the early afternoon – there were a few people there who seemed to be mainly there for the novelty of it. There were a lot of staff to help customers out with questions – probably just as many employees as there was staff.

The app updated after I got in and gave some more tips on how to use the store as well as the option to repeat the tutorials.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

I also got a push notification warning me of the time limit for people shopping as a group.A push notification from the Aldi Shop & Go app.

Though there were baskets available, most people put their shopping straight in reusable bags they had brought with them. I did this the first time, which made me feel a little bit like I was stealing, and carried my items the second time.

I picked up a few items and put them back down to see if they would be added to my receipt or not. The app doesn’t let you check which items are currently in your virtual basket while you’re in the store, so I couldn’t find out until the end of my visit whether Aldi got my purchases right or not.

The store had a pick-and-mix bakery section, too.

I put three different items in a bag because I was intrigued to see whether the store could recognize each pastry individually as they all looked quite similar.

Disappointingly, the store didn’t have a middle aisle. This section of the store features heavily-discounted products, ranging from clothing and camping gear to tech items and kids toys, that change every few weeks and is an Aldi staple and fan favorite. The concept encourages visitors to return to the store so that they can see which items are on offer that week.

I was surprised to see an Aldi without a middle aisle – but the store was quite compact and Aldi may have relied on the unique shop-and-go format to draw in punters instead.

I decided to pick up some alcohol from the store, too.

There was a sign in the alcohol section saying that you had to verify your age either using the app or via a store worker.

But on my first visit, I didn’t see the sign and just walked out of the store. When I was leaving, I asked a member of staff what I had to do to leave the store and opened my app but the employee told me to just step near the gate and it would open. It didn’t. They then used an electronic device to overrule the gate and let me through.The entry gates.

It was only after returning home when I opened the app again that I saw this message saying that I needed to have my age verified, even though this was hours after I’d left the store. It hadn’t come up on my phone as a push notification and I hadn’t noticed it at all when I opened the app to attempt to leave the store. As a result, I was able to purchase alcohol without my age being verified.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

I tried using the age-verification software, but it didn’t work. I thought I either looked too young or it didn’t work because I wasn’t in the store.Using the Yoti age-verification software.

On my second visit, I tried to use the age-verification software provided on the Aldi app by Yoti a few times but it still didn’t work. An Aldi spokesperson told Insider: “This store utilises the very latest in retail technology offering Aldi’s award-winning products and unbeatable prices to customers in a new and innovative way. We are pleased with how the trial is operating so far and will continue to monitor it closely.”Using the Yoti age-verification software.

When I was leaving the store on my second visit, however, a member of staff was asking every customer as they left whether they had alcohol in their bag. After I said yes, the employee asked for my ID.

One member of staff had been telling customers that the store was having a lot of problems with the age-verification software, while another told me that there was “no way” that Yoti would let me purchase alcohol without having my ID checked because I look young for my age.

As soon as I left, I got a push notification thanking me for shopping at the store.A push notification from the Aldi Shop & Go app.

I also got a push notification saying that I needed to verify my age before leaving the store, though this didn’t appear to come through until after I’d already left.A push notification from the Aldi Shop & Go app.

There was a separate set of gates to exit the store, located next to the entry gates. You were meant to just step in front of the gates and they would open automatically to leave the store, but both times I visited a member of staff had to scan a device to let me through.

A short while later, I got a receipt sent through, too.A push notification from the Aldi Shop & Go app.

But after my first visit I was unable to open the receipt at home on the app. Instead, the app appeared to think I was still in the store. I had to check my email to find a copy of my receipt.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

A member of staff told me that this was a glitch in the app that had affected some other returning customers, too. They told me to uninstall and then reinstall the app. I put this down to a teething problem, and didn’t mind doing it, though it would have been a pain if I were in a rush.

The receipt was spot on. I was impressed that it had correctly identified the pastries I had picked up, too.The receipt Aldi emailed to me.

Even the really small jar of spices I had bought came through correctly.

After my second visit, I was able to view my receipt properly on the app.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

The app allows you to view all your recent receipts from the store, which I thought would be quite handy for budgeting.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

For my second trip to the store, my receipt was nearly all correct …The Aldi Shop & Go app.

… apart from it had added on a tin of sweetcorn that I had picked up to take a picture of the barcode and then put back down. Because the app didn’t seem to have a running list of items in my virtual basket, I didn’t realize I was being charged for it until after I left the store.I accidentally paid for this tin of sweetcorn that I didn’t take home.

The receipt had information on how to return items but not on how to get a refund for a product you never actually left the store with. The app, on the other hand, had an option at the end of the receipt for if you wanted to change a product.

This took you through to a list of everything you bought …The Aldi Shop & Go app.

… where you could say why you wanted to get a refund.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

I did this on Friday, and this struck the item out on the receipt.The Aldi Shop & Go app.

I checked my app around two and a half hours later, and saw that the receipt said that it was still calculating some of the prices …

… but the app had added a new receipt from just after I had submitted a refund request for the sweetcorn. I was surprised this was listed as a new transaction, rather than the existing one being amended.

Visiting the store was fun, though I expect the novelty will wear off. And for one-off visitors just popping in for a snack or drink, I can imagine the hassle of downloading an app and creating a user account might be off-putting, especially where there is another supermarket just round the corner.The entry gates.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the store again, though I would encourage people to try it out. There were a few technical glitches, though I attributed these to teething problems. Aldi staff members have a reputation for being speedy scanners, and so I don’t think using the contact-free store would save you much time, though I imagine some shoppers would feel more comfortable using this store format during the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Retail, Aldi, AiFi, Contactless, Retail, Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh, Features, Weekend BI UK, autonomous, autonomous retail, review, Reviews

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