Wednesday , September 30, 2020

Beyond Contactless: Giant Eagle Recruits Grabango for Checkout-Free Stores

Cashierless technology is spreading as stores hunt for ways to automate service and payments while keeping operating costs in check.

The latest example is supermarket chain Giant Eagle Inc., which has teamed up with Grabango Co., a Berkeley, Calif.-based provider of checkout-free technology, to introduce cashierless technology to its GetGo Café+Market convenience stores. The first store to be retrofitted with Grabango’s technology went live Tuesday in Fox Chapel, Pa., near Pittsburgh. 

Grabango’s technology uses computer vision to track when an item is removed from the shelf or a refrigerated case. Small cameras hidden in the ceiling, within a casing similar to a fluorescent light fixture called a G-rail, follow consumers as they move through the store grabbing items. 

When a consumer who has downloaded the Grabango app enters the store, the app automatically begins tracking items as she picks them up and keeps a running tally. To complete the purchase, the consumer scans a code, generated by the app, on a Grabango terminal, thus bypassing the checkout counter. The system charges the purchase to a credit or debit card the consumer has registered in the app and sends a digital copy of the receipt to the app. The app also stores copies of receipts for prior purchases. 

More competition for Amazon Go: Grabango’s app in action at one of Giant Eagle’s GetGo stores.

Because Grabango’s technology does not rely on shelf sensors that indicate when an item is removed from the shelf, in the way that Amazon Go stores do, retrofitting an existing store can done faster and cheaper, says Andy Radlow, chief business officer for Grabango. 

“It can cost a store hundreds of dollars per square foot to install checkout-free technology with other systems,” says Radlow. “Our solution is lighter-weight, which reduces the cost of implementation, and can be installed without interrupting store operations.”

In the case of the Fox-Chapel GetGo location, which is 3,000  square feet, the store was retrofitted in about three nights, says Radlow, who declines to reveal Grabango’s pricing. 

As it keeps track of items customers pick up, Grabango’s technology also notifies the store when shelf stock is low. Merchants receive data about in-store traffic patterns and other analytics that can aid merchandising strategies. Merchants can white-label the Grabango app and can send customers promotional offers via the app, even in-store, Radlow adds. The app is available through the Apple and Google app stores.

“With Grabango, our GetGo guests are able to get in, get out, and get going even faster with a more convenient, contactless shopping experience,” says Laura Karet, president and chief executive of Giant Eagle. “We look forward to success at our Fox Chapel GetGo and to rolling out more Grabango-powered convenience and grocery stores in the near future.”

Giant Eagle operates 202 GetGo stores in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Giant Eagle is not the only c-store chain operator to embrace cashier-less checkout. Last month Alimentation Couche-Tard’s, which operates Circle K convenience stores, announced that the first retrofitted Circle K store will go live in Phoenix in early 2021, with potentially dozens more to follow. Alimentation Couche-Tard operates nearly 14,500 convenience stores worldwide, including the Circle K brand. 

Looking ahead, Radlow says plans are in the works to add a virtual shopping basket to the Grabango app that will display items in it at the Grabango terminal to allow shoppers to see what’s in their basket, as opposed to reading through an itemized receipt.

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