Self-checkout: the new autonomy when shopping

Self-checkout solutions are becoming increasingly popular. In 2020, Valora pushed ahead with other digital convenience solutions in addition to the avec box.

Convenient, flexible and at your own pace: not least due to the coronavirus crisis, self-checkout solutions in the retail trade are increasingly gaining in popularity. Valora continued to push ahead with the development of digital convenience solutions in the past year.

Initially, the barcode did not bring any direct benefit for customers. The black zebra stripes on products and shelves were used exclusively for inventory management, a task for which shops previously had to be closed for a short time. By now, the barcode has evolved into the point of departure for an autonomous customer experience and the foundation for many self-checkout solutions.

“Customers today appreciate the advantage of being able to scan their own products and manage the whole shopping process themselves,” says Michael Wirth, Head of Digital at Valora. This trend started with physical self-checkout registers, which nowadays can be found in all supermarkets and are actively used, not only when there are many customers.

“Thanks to mobile devices and smartphones, the self-scanning process now starts the moment when the customer takes a product from the shelf,” explains Wirth. He and his 25 or so colleagues in the Valora Digital team are working on new self-checkout solutions or reinterpreting existing ones for Valora.

avec box: ETH Hönggerberg

Valora introduced its new autonomy of shopping concept in April 2019 with the launch of avec box, the most modern convenience store in Switzerland. The special thing about avec box was not the tried-and-tested range of convenience products including fresh food to eat on the go and daily food and basic supplies, but rather the fact that customers can do all their shopping 24/7. Customers can only enter the avec box, shop and pay for their purchases with an app.

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avec box ETH Hönggerberg

“Self-checkin and self-checkout have made the shopping experience even more convenient. You can now shop at your own pace and outside of normal business hours,” says Wirth. After a short time at the Zurich main station, the avec box moved to the ETH Zurich Hönggerberg campus. Following a great customer response and several extensions, it will remain at this location until the end of May 2021. Another avec box was installed at the Wetzikon station near Zurich from the end of February until December 2020 and will be transported to Arlesheim BL in March 2021 for a further test.

avec 24/7: round the clock shopping in Zurich’s urban west

Since the end of January 2021, the avec store at Hardplatz in Zurich applies the same logic as the cashier-free avec box. While staff are present in the store as usual during the day from Monday to Saturday, this avec store will be operational autonomously on Sundays and soon also at night. Here too, access, shopping and payment are made using the avec app.

In future, at the avec store at Hardplatz mobile self-checkout should be possible during the day. Valora has been testing this system in two stores at the Zurich Oerlikon station since the beginning of December 2020. Customers use the avec app to scan a QR code at the entrance to start the shopping process. They capture their goods via the app and finish the shopping process by scanning another QR code at the cash register.

avec shelf: shop-in-shop

avec shelf is another self-checkout option as part of a shop-in-shop concept. In one section of the ETH Zurich Hönggerberg store, students can buy a selection of convenience products by scanning and paying for their items with the app.

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avec Shelf

The avec app as personal shop key

The core of all these self-checkout solutions is the avec app, which has been constantly optimised since being used for the first time in the avec box. The avec app is really the customer’s personal shop key that allows them to shop autonomously and, depending on the format, outside of normal business hours.

“When using the avec app to shop, convenience isn’t restricted to the product range, but encompasses the customer’s whole shopping experience,” explains Wirth. “Staff workload as well as customers’ waiting times are also reduced further.” This is a huge benefit at heavily frequented sites in particular, where things can never go quickly enough during rush hour. And since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, demand for contactless payment options via an app has risen noticeably.

avec now: the fast delivery service

Not a self-checkout concept, but a digital convenience solution of strategic importance to Valora, the avec now delivery service was developed in record time by Wirth and his team and launched at the beginning of April 2020. During a three-month pilot project, the avec stores in Giswil (OW) and Küsnacht (ZH) made deliveries to local customers, including those in the surrounding municipalities. Valora has been testing this fast delivery service in the city of Zurich since the beginning of July 2020. An avec store at Hardplatz and since mid-December also an avec store in Oerlikon have been making deliveries to surrounding city districts and municipalities – all within one hour. The range currently comprises some 1,400 products and does not target big weekly purchases, but rather small in-between purchases – items you do not have in the house right now or that you suddenly have a craving for.

Valora is still testing its various self-checkout solutions, which it plans to also roll out at other locations in Switzerland or abroad. Because Valora is convinced that autonomous shopping will be a central issue in the future. And then the barcode will also no longer be important for the customer.

Photos and videos: Noë Flum.