Woolworths reveals bold new in-store 'virtual shop assistant' for customers

Woolworths could increase plans for contactless shopping amid changes to how Aussies shop due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Woolies told Yahoo News Australia in February it had rolled out Scan&Go at 10 Sydney stores.

The scheme involves shoppers downloading the Scan&Go app from the App store or Google Play and registering payment details in the app.

Customers can then go around the store scanning items on their phone as they put them into their bags before tapping off at a designated kiosk, shaving minutes off shopping times.

Woolworths' employee Bryn Rayfield shows off the Scan&Go app at the Double Bay store in Sydney in September 2018. Source: AAP

Woolworths Group Head of Payments and Financial Services Paul Monnington said the scheme was aimed at customers who lead busy lives and that the Woolworths experience was now “more convenient than ever before”.

Due to coronavirus, and to stop the spread of it, supermarkets have encouraged sick shoppers to cut down on in-store contacts whether it’s encouraging social distancing, making orders online to be delivered to homes or reducing the number of customers in shops.

Woolworths app to become ‘a virtual shop assistant’

WooliesX digital innovation division director Amanda Bardwell told the Australian Financial Review there’s been demand for contactless shopping and Scan&Go has since been rolled out to 15 stores.

She added while interest has increased in Scan&Go, Woolies plans to “accelerate” trials.

However, it doesn’t mean shopping will change drastically.

The app will change though, WooliesX chief digital technology officer Nick Eshkenazi told AFR with features to make shopping not only quicker but easier.

"We have added features where you can find a specific product in a particular aisle while you're in a store, and lead them to where it is,” Mr Eshkenazi told the publication.

Mr Eshkenazi added the idea is to have the app become a “virtual shop assistant”.

It’s a somewhat different approach to what Brittain Ladd, chief marketing officer of US consultancy firm Pulse Integration, predicted for shopping centres in the future.

Even before the deadly pandemic, customers have been yearning for increased speed and a simplified shopping experience, Mr Ladd said. 

“Specifically, I believe that the future of retail isn’t shopping, it is retrieving and receiving the products desired, especially groceries, as fast and easy as possible.”

We could see more opportunities to use Woolies' Scan & Go in the near future. Source: AAP

To do this, the business consultant said all retailers should install micro-fulfilment centres. Mr Ladd helped Amazon design stores that incorporated micro-fulfilment centres (MFC).

A MFC leverages robotics and shuttles to automatically fulfil online grocery orders or assemble Click and Collect orders for pick up at a store, he explained.

They perform similarly to vending machines.

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