Albert Heijn, an Ahold Delhaize brand, is piloting a fully digital AH to go to enable a truly grab-and-go experience for customers. The brand is developing the store together with AiFi, a U.S.-based technology startup providing AutoCheckout NanoStore, and Dutch bank ING.
The tiny 14 m² store is packed with technological innovations that make it possible to buy something as if you were taking it out of your refrigerator: there is no checkout and you no longer have to scan your products yourself. The store is located in front of the support office in Zaandam and will be tested with associates in the coming two months. The expectation is that the store will be relocated to another place in the Netherlands later this year.
Marit van Egmond, brand president of Albert Heijn, said: “Technological innovations follow each other at breakneck speed and offer endless opportunities. Convenience for our customers comes first. This latest concept not only makes shopping very easy; due to its autonomous nature, this “plug and play” store can be placed at locations where there is a (temporary) need for a small store, from offices or university campuses to residential areas under construction that do not yet have shopping facilities. A second advantage is that the store can always be open, which is useful for people who are on the road very early or very late.”
Grab and go
Under the roof of the small AH to go is an enormous amount of technology that has been developed together with AiFi and ING. This is how it works: the door opens automatically with your debit card or credit card. In the store, you grab the products you want, for example, a sandwich with a juice or a healthy snack. Then you walk to the exit where the payment takes place automatically and the door opens. A real grab and go experience!
AH to go is based on the fully automated NanoStore concept built by AiFi. It is a small self-contained store enabled with AiFi’s AutoCheckout Technology. Steve Gu, CEO and co-founder of AiFi, explains how it works: “We develop NanoStore with advanced computer vision and sensing technologies to enable automated checkout. Cameras see where you are in the store and associate product items to your virtual basket. In addition, in-store sensors keep track of products that are taken off or put back on the shelves. Multiple sensing modalities work like a symphony to accurately decipher who is grabbing what, instantaneously. As a result, customers can enjoy ultra-convenient and delightful shopping with lightning speed.”
ING has developed the payment solution and takes care of payment processing in the fully digital AH to go. Roel Popping, director of payments at ING Netherlands, said: “It works simply: When the customer shows a payment card at the entrance, the door opens, and the store starts to register the purchase of products that the customer takes from the shelves. When the shopping is done, the customer stands at the exit and sees the total amount on a display. The customer does not have to do anything else. He or she will be notified that the payment has been successful and can leave the store. The customer does not have to register in advance or download an app, which makes the payment system innovative and very accessible.”
Albert Heijn is making full use of new technologies to make shopping and cooking easier. New concepts are constantly being developed, tested and rolled out. Other examples of innovations are tap to go, dynamic discounting, the “my nutritional values” dashboard on ah.nl, the mechanised distribution centre in Zaandam and blockchains for orange juice and eggs.