Is a “just walk out” shopping revolution on the way in Europe? In the past month, three of Europe’s biggest grocery retailers opened cashierless stores that allow customers to walk in, select their items, and walk out, without having to wait in checkout lines or scan any items.
“Some people are saying this is the biggest thing to happen this year in retail,” says Michael Gabay, CEO of Trigo, the Israeli company providing the system’s technology.
Shoppers at the Tesco Express store in central London and the REWE supermarket chain in Cologne, Germany got to experience the technology for the first time last month. After downloading the store’s app and creating a payment profile, shoppers must scan a QR code as they enter the store to get logged into the system. Then, after they walk around the store and choose their products, they can simply walk out of the store without doing anything else.
A network of cameras placed around the store follow each shopper around, tracking just their skeleton, “with no biometric tracking, no facial recognition, and without knowing who you are,” Gabay explains. “The cameras track everything you take, with fraud prevention to make sure that people can’t fool the system. It is more than 99% accurate, and works amazingly.”
That gives traditional retailers the tools to compete with Amazon’s growing network of no-checkout retail chains. Amazon now has about 30 branches of its Amazon Go convenience store chain and 18 Amazon Fresh supermarket chain around the US. The retail juggernaut recently entered the European market with six Amazon Fresh stores in the UK, with plans for more.
“The global war between Amazon and the grocery industry has begun,” Gabay says. “Amazon entered the grocery space very aggressively. We are the only company offering retailers the technology to compete.”
The deployment challenges are significant, Gabay says. “Amazon is building new stores that are designed with their technology from the ground up,” he says. “Our mission is much more challenging — to come into existing stores and implement the platform without disrupting the store’s layout. That’s not easy.”
However, that also means that Trigo’s ability to scale its technology is broader. “We are working with retailers that already have thousands of stores around the world,” Gabay notes. “Amazon has to build each new location from scratch.”
Tesco, the third-largest retailer in the world, began testing Trigo’s platform in 2018 at a small store on its main campus used mainly by company employees. (Prior to that, it ran smaller tests in Israel with the Shufersal chain.) The launch of the technology two weeks ago in High Holborn in central London was the company’s first live deployment. Then, two weeks later, Germany’s second-largest grocery chain REWE Group used Trigo to open a hybrid cashierless store in Cologne.
ALDI North, the largest grocery retailer in Europe and in the top 5 globally, with thousands of stores across Europe, also announced last month its first autonomous store in Utrecht, the Netherlands, to open early next year.
With others also on board, Trigo now has contracts with five of the world’s top 10 grocery retailers, and is getting attention from chains around the world, Gabay says.
The market need for such a solution is huge, Gabay says. “No one likes to wait in line at the store. Ten minutes in line feels like an hour. This makes shopping frictionless.”
It also provides valuable business intelligence for retail managers. “The system allows you to understand everything that happens in the store, including inventory control, marketing, analytics and many other things. It provides real-time information so that retailers can understand what is happening with their stock in real-time, and which products are popular or not, so they can optimize shelf space and profits.”
“We solve the three biggest complaints shoppers have,” Gabay says. “We eliminate waiting in line, we help make sure the store stocks enough of the products you want, and we help shoppers find products in the store with a floor map inside the application.”
Trigo plans to expand into the US market next year, and to work with other types of stores in the future, from department stores to electronics and toy stores. “Next year, we’ll be in dozens of stores, in two years, we’ll have hundreds of stores, and in five years, I expect we will be in thousands of stores. We have contracts for hundreds of stores already in place.”
Trigo is preparing for the challenge, with 150 employees and a total of $104 million raised from investors. “We have a lot of momentum,” Gabay says. “Now is our time.”