- Ahold Delhaize’s Albert Heijn To Go c-store chain, located in the Netherlands, will soon feature “tap to go” technology at all of its 80 stores across that country, according to a company release.
- The technology allows shoppers to pay for their items by tapping a shelf tag with a mobile app or a card. The system uses near-field communication (NFC) technology and debits the customer’s account after 10 minutes.
- Jan-Willem Dockheer, general manager of Albert Heijn To Go, called the rollout a milestone for the company: “We want to offer our customers plenty of choice, quality and convenience anytime and anywhere. With ‘tap to go,' we really bring that convenience to the next level. Who waits in a line for fun?”
Albert Heijn To Go began testing the NFC shelf tags late last year and must have liked what it saw in order to roll it out chain-wide. When it comes to Ahold Delhaize’s banners, Albert Heijn is perhaps the most innovative. The chain has recently introduced Google Assistant, blockchain traceability and a chatbot that automatically sends recipes to shoppers.
If Ahold Delhaize continues to like what it sees, there is no reason to believe it won’t experiment with the skip-checkout technology at one or all of its U.S. brands. The company excels at testing new concepts and then sharing its best strategies. It will need to continue doing so in order to stay competitive in the U.S., which provides two-thirds of the company’s sales.
During its latest earnings report, the company noted that sales volumes were “challenged” at most of its U.S. brands. Tap to go won’t likely provide a silver bullet for Ahold Delhaize’s domestic business, but it can provide a differentiator early on in the cashier-free game. That game is changing quickly as a steady stream of grocers – from Fairway Market to Kroger – adopt “scan and go” technology that enables consumers to leave the store without going through a checkout lane. However, as Walmart’s dropped Scan & Go service illustrates, it’s critical to get the technology and the marketing right.
U.S. consumers have started to warm up to the idea of skipping the checkout line. As Amazon Go prepares for a (rumored) 3,000-store expansion, those consumers will expect a frictionless experience. If and when that happens, Ahold Delhaize’s domestic brands will have an advantage with a proven cashier-free system at its fingertips. Compared to many skip-checkout apps that retailers are piloting, "tap to go" doesn't require customers to check in with an employee before they leave. They simply walk out.
However, Albert Heijn To Go does require an extra step – customers have to pause to tap each shelf tag of each product – compared to Amazon Go. As cashier-less continues to permeate the category, Amazon is likely to establish itself as the standard bearer, and any similar systems will have to provide the same levels of convenience.