Sainsbury’s turns to Amazon for cashierless tech

UK grocer Sainsbury’s has entered into a Faustian bargain with etail leviathan Amazon to power its new cashierless stores.

The news, broken by Bloomberg, comes just a month after competitor Tesco unveiled its own cashierless shopping initiative on the back of technology provided by Trigo. So this move by Sainsbury’s not only matches up competing supermarkets, but retail technologies too. How exciting!

Sainsbury’s doesn’t seem to have made any formal announcements yet but it has created this website full of FAQs about something it calls ‘Pick & go’. You scan in with a QR code that identifies your account, grab whatever stuff you fancy, then scan out again with the code, and the cleverness automatically bills you for the stuff you bought.

As if the competitive tension isn’t already high enough, it look like the first Sainsbury’s Pick & go store is in Holborn Circus, just down the road from the equivalent Tesco one. We would guess that, being opposite a tube station in one of the busiest parts of London, the Sainsbury’s shop has a fair bit more footfall, so it will be a good test of this technology.

Right now you can shop at Sainsbury’s with just your phone but you still need to scan the bar codes of everything you grab and still have to pay with a card at the end, which is an intolerable hassle. Furthermore there must be a reasonable amount of theft, intentional or otherwise, because most of the time your trolley isn’t checked to make sure you’ve scanned everything in it.

So this technology should represent a win for both Sainsbury’s and its customers. If you ignore the fact that Amazon is also getting a nice piece of the action too, that is. Not only has the retail sector lost much of its business to the US giant, it now has to pay it for the privilege of resisting further technological obsolescence. Strange times.

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