Sainsbury’s trials virtual queuing app and extends till-free, contactless shopping to more c-stores


Sainsbury’s is trialling a new virtual queuing system to test whether the technology will help customers stay safe, save time and shop conveniently in stores. The trial, which will run via the app ufirst, will be live in five stores from Monday and is the first time this technology has been tested in the UK. The initiative is just one of the ways Sainsbury’s is innovating and investing in digital in response to the pandemic and changing customer shopping habits.

The trial will run until mid-August and test how customers respond to such a solution, as well as how it supports colleagues to manage queues and the flow of customers in and out of stores. It will also help Sainsbury’s respond quickly should such a proposition need to be implemented at short notice in the event of a local lockdown, or scaled up if government guidance changes. 

Sainsbury’s has partnered with ufirst to test the experience with customers shopping at Sainsbury’s Uxbridge, Pimlico, Dome Roundabout in Watford, Leicester North and Newham Royal Wharf stores. Customers can download the app on their smartphone and join a virtual queue without needing to physically wait in line at the store. They can then monitor their position in the queue from the comfort of their car, home or local coffee shop and they will be notified when they are at the front. If a customer does not have a smartphone, colleagues can add the customer to the queue. 

To offer customers more ways to shop quickly, conveniently and safely in stores, Sainsbury’s is also rapidly rolling out SmartShop Mobile Pay to more of its convenience stores, offering till-free and contactless shopping. Customers can use their smartphones to scan their shopping, pack it and track what they are spending as they go, then pay for it through the app, without needing to go to a physical till.  The app is now live in over 75 Sainsbury’s Locals and the retailer is continuing to rapidly rollout the technology to more convenience stores – 40 more will follow this week alone. 

Sainsbury’s was the first UK supermarket to trial till-free shopping in 2018 and the first to experiment with a totally till-free store in 2019. The move also follows the rollout of SmartShop in all Sainsbury’s supermarkets. Customers can scan and pack products as they go on either the handsets provided or their own smartphone. At the end of their shop, they can save time by skipping the main tills and paying at a designated till point.

SmartShop now accounts for more than half of sales in some supermarkets and Sainsbury’s is serving over one million customers a week through the app. 

Nigel Blunt, director of e-commerce at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re always on the lookout for how we can make our customers lives easier using technology. We’re trialling a virtual queuing system which enables shoppers to hold their place in the queue using their smartphone and we will be listening closely to feedback from our customers and colleagues. We’re also rolling out SmartShop Mobile Pay to even more convenience stores, offering customers fast and contactless shopping that will help them get in and out of the store even quicker.”