Morrisons to trial unmanned store at Bradford HQ

Morrisons: convenience store trial

Britain’s fourth largest grocer, Morrisons, is to trial a store outside of its Bradford headquarters that has no tills, allowing customers to collect their groceries and leave immediately.

Depending on the success of the trial, the supermarket chain hope to open more of these stores across the country.

The concept store depends on shoppers scanning a key in the Morrisons app upon arrival, with cameras tracking the produce they select, and subsequently debiting their account. In a radical departure from the traditional means of grocery shopping, the move from Morrisons further underpins the retail sector’s desire for greater technological integrations as a result of the pandemic. In light of this new research from retail tech pioneer Ubamarket has found that Brits are also widely in favour of the retail sector streamlining the shopping experience to reduce the element of human contact.

The research has found that since the start of the pandemic, 43% of Brits want their shopping experience to require as little human interaction as possible. The necessity for swiftness has been further highlighted with an overwhelming majority of Brits (62%) agreeing that they want to be able to complete their supermarket shop and exit the store in under 20 minutes.

Key statistics:

  • 62% of Brits (28 million) want to be able to complete their supermarket shop and exit the store in under 20 minutes
  • 43% of Brits (over 20 million) want their shopping experience moving forward to require as little human interaction as possible
  • Four in 10 Brits no longer use cash when shopping or when in bars or restaurants due to concerns around the transfer of germs
  • 50% of people in Britain (over 23 million) haven’t used cash at all during periods of lockdown and have relied exclusively on card and contactless payments
  • Over one-third (34%) of Brits say that the self-checkouts cause significant anxiety due to hygiene concerns and proximity to other shoppers
  • 50% of Brits found that being able to do a weekly shop at their local supermarket through COVID was vital to combating isolation in lockdown

Ubamarket, a pioneering retail app, have themselves been on the front lines of recent innovation in the retail sector, helping supermarkets and convenience stores to revolutionise their operations by integrating with mobile technology. The Scan, Pay, Go app Ubamarket provides is currently being implemented by a list of retailers including Central England Co-Op, SPAR, Budgens and Londis, with key features such as age verification, aisle sat-nav and AI-driven personalised offers proving instrumental in helping physical retail outlets transform their service offering to compete in a post-COVID landscape. 

Will Broome, CEO of Ubamarket, discusses the research looking into consumer sentiments towards shopping in light of the retail sector embracing the integration of technology in-store:

“The research clearly shows that the Coronavirus pandemic has completely transformed both retailer and consumer behaviour- in particular when it comes to purchasing their goods.

“The pandemic has raised huge questions around hygiene and safety, with particular concerns around consumer confidence. This fluctuation is shopping habits has further highlighted a number of pre-existing problems with the shopping experience in Britain, with a huge proportion of Brits now feeling that their shopping experience is outdated. Now, the question facing businesses is not ‘when will things go back to normal’ but rather ‘how can we adapt to succeed and serve customers in a post-COVID world?’.

“The circumstances brought about by Covid-19 call for a new way of doing things – retail tech such as Ubamarket will help supermarkets, stores, bars and restaurants to do just that, by doing away with the need for time-consuming queues, unhygienic checkouts, complicated store layouts and confusion about where products are and whether they are in stock. Paying for your shopping in-app will drastically reduce your exposure to potentially dangerous interactions as there is no need to stand in queues or use the tills. Ultimately, if retailers are willing to implement retail technology, we could make the weekly shop far more safe and hygienic for everybody in the UK.”

Oliver Guy, global industry director, retail at Software AG, said: “By 2030, grocery margins are likely to drop by 13%. The three biggest costs in retail are real-estate, merchandise and labour. Walk-out models, however, allow the labour costs to be cut significantly. 

“By definition, disruptive technologies or approaches are those that remove friction from the customer journey. The single biggest point of friction in retail – especially in convenience and grocery – is queuing to pay. Walk-out eliminates that at a stroke.  Alternatives of self-scanning only stores, that Sainsbury’s has experimented with, simply do not ‘cut the mustard’ as there is a new point of friction added – such as the need to juggle a scanner, or your smartphone, with your shopping items.

“Another key point here is that if we go back to the ‘toilet roll crisis’ of 2020, this was caused by the ‘bullwhip effect’ where demand signals from the store shelf are too far disconnected from the suppliers. The walk-out model has the potential ability to eliminate this and keep manufacturers fully aligned to ‘at shelf-edge’ demand signals. This will facilitate a more efficient and resilient supply chain.” 

Melissa Minkow, retail industry lead, CI&T, said: “Till-less stores present a model that could flip retail on its head, so it is interesting to see that the first big supermarket chain, Morrisons, is making this move. The till-less model seems to fit most comfortably into categories where customers rarely need advice, like grocery shopping and personal care, so it is no surprise that supermarkets are becoming early adopters.”

“For consumers, till-less indulges mission-based shopping – you can get in and out swiftly and avoid the browsing and queuing if you stick to your shopping list. At the same time, you are getting out of the house. It’s experiential, bridging the gap between social activity and digital convenience.”

“When done correctly, till-less retail actually contributes to a richer shopping experience. This is because the model begins and ends with customer data. Whole new fields of customer insight and analytics can be opened up. It’s no longer a matter of just knowing what a customer has bought, but also how long they spent in the store and browsing what aisles.”