26 October 2021

European début: The first hybrid supermarket offering checkout-free payment officially opens to the public

  • Thanks to Pick&Go, customers can simply register, shop and then leave the store

  • Now available to the public following a period of intensive testing

  • The first to try it out were FC Köln stars Ellyes Skhiri and Thomas Kessler

REWE is the first food retailer in Germany to offer customers a hybrid shopping experience. Shoppers can either pay at checkout or use the innovative, checkout-free Pick&Go option. After an intensive five-month trial, this high-tech system is now being rolled out for customers in Cologne as a new way to shop. When customers choose to Pick&Go, their purchases are captured securely using camera and sensor technology designed to minimise the data collected. Once customers leave the store, they are billed automatically without stopping to check out.

It is hard to imagine a quicker, simpler or more convenient way to shop today. Ellyes Skhiri and team manager Thomas Kessler of FC Köln were the first official Pick&Go customers, and they had the chance to demonstrate their silky skills off the pitch and in the aisles. Customers can now do the weekly shop, grab a quick snack or pick up a few essentials quickly, conveniently and securely at the store near Cologne’s Neumarkt without having to stop at checkout. REWE has been putting Pick&Go through the paces with a group of employee test shoppers since the start of May. More than 300 REWE employees made around 3,000 purchases, packing packed around 15,000 items into their own bags and rucksacks before leaving the store without having to stop and check out

The REWE store on Zeppelinstrasse looks like any other supermarket from the outside. But once inside, it is clear from the prominent privacy notices and modern entrance gates that an innovative shopping experience awaits. For customers, it is all very straightforward: If they would like to use the autonomous checkout and do their shopping without going to the till, they simply sign in with REWE’s Pick&Go app at the entrance. They can now take everything they need from the shelves, pack the items away and simply walk out of the store when they’ve finished shopping. The Pick&Go app automatically displays the bill straight away. If there are any discrepancies, it is just as easy for customers to report the issue with the Pick&Go app within 24 hours of their purchase. Customers can then simply contact customer services. As always, in-store staff will be happy to help with individual questions.

The full range of in-store items can be purchased in this way, including fresh baked goods, fruit and vegetables, dry goods and frozen foods – and even hot food like meat loaf and rosemary potatoes or freshly brewed coffee to takeaway. The system relies on smart cameras, shelf sensors and other high-tech components, as well as six kilometres of high-speed network cable.

Data protection continues to be at the heart of the development and operation of the system. Data minimisation principles are followed when processing the customer images captured by the system. They are used exclusively to enable checkout-free shopping in the hybrid store. The system only records data identifying items removed or placed back on the shelf, and it does not use facial recognition technology or “remember” customers on subsequent visits to the store. The Zeppelinstrasse supermarket is one of the first in Europe to enable customers to use this hybrid shopping model under real-life conditions.

Shopping together with everything on a single bill

Thanks to high detection rates, rapid processing and the commitment of the development teams involved, the successful trial phase also demonstrated that the system works even when customers shop with someone else. “It was obviously important for us to identify all potential customer use cases. Our customers often shop with a partner, colleague, friend or as a whole family. In these situations, it is essential that Pick&Go knows who is shopping together, who should receive the bill and who is paying, and we have been able to do all of that,” explains Anika Vooes, Research & Innovation project manager at REWE digital. “The system records each user as a sequential number and captures their skeletal characteristics. When customers take something from the shelf, their arm movements are detected and evaluated. Whether they are picking up bananas or putting a yoghurt back on the shelf, the system knows what they are doing, even when items are put back in the wrong place, which is a regular occurrence at supermarkets.”

“After the exciting months of beta testing, we are delighted to finally be able to provide our customers with the Pick&Go experience as an alternative way to shop. It has been a very popular topic of conversation, and we have had a lot of interest and positive feedback from customers. As a team, we are proud to be the first store to take this hybrid approach,” says store manager Darius Malucha. The Zeppelinstrasse store currently employs 13 members of staff and a management team, making its workforce comparable to other similar-sized stores. Pick&Go does not make their jobs obsolete, since customers will continue to value human interaction. They will continue to receive knowledgeable answers about products, ranges and offers and be offered advice while shopping. In fact, there may be even more scope to do so in the future.

International technology partnership

In this project, REWE is working alongside Trigo Vision Ltd, a company specializing in computer-aided vision technology. Trigo’s solution generates a 3D model of a supermarket that digitally models the environment and movements, allowing customers to choose items and leave the store with them while still protecting their privacy.

About REWE

With sales of 26.5 billion euros (2020), more than 148,000 employees and over 3,600 REWE stores, REWE Markt GmbH is one of Germany’s leading food retail companies. REWE stores are run as subsidiaries or by independent REWE retailers.

The cooperatively organised REWE Group is one of the leading trade and tourism groups in Germany and Europe. In 2020, the company generated a total external turnover of around 75 billion euros. Founded in 1927, the REWE Group has more than 380,000 employees and operates in 21 European countries.

Raimund Esser
Head of Corporate Communications at
REWE Markt

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