Last Thursday, British grocery store Tesco announced it is taking its tech game up a notch with checkout-free shopping. While this isn’t the first time the store has tried out in new technologies, it might be a preview of how brick-and-mortar supermarkets could operate in the future.
The announcement comes just a few months after Amazon’s move into checkout-free grocery, allowing customers to scan items themselves, drop them into their baskets, and simply walk out of the store. But Tesco is no stranger to embracing new technologies. It was the first grocery store to sell online in the UK in 1996 and controls 35% of the online grocery market—higher than its 28% offline share, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Retail Europe.
The store already offers free delivery and a Click & Collect service from Tesco Direct and Tesco Wine, and also takes the cake when it comes to customer service. For example, it provides 24/7 support on Twitter, and tweeting nearly 1,000 times per day—ten times the average of UK brands observed in Gartner L2’s study, despite the fact that the UK remains the most competitive region in terms of digital performance. In fact, its activity on the platform consists solely of customer service replies. And while the introduction of checkout-free grocery shopping could eliminate in-store clerks, it might give Tesco another channel of communication with its customers, as the process occurs within its app.
With Tesco’s history of putting convenience first, its latest move is not surprising. By taking a page from Amazon’s playbook, the grocery store might transition into a fully cashless and cardless future.