The goods are chosen, scanned and paid for using the avec smartphone app. Mobile computer vision specialists Scandit’s scan engine is a key component of the customer-facing app.
The future of shopping - whether online or offline - is inextricably linked with the use of smartphones. Valora is setting new standards with the Future Store avec X and the avec box at Zurich’s main railway station. These are both convenience stores. Convenience here not only refers to the everyday food and drink items and essential household goods they stock, but also to a fast and simple shopping experience. They also offer 24-hour opening times, seven days a week.
The Future Store avec X is Valora’s innovation laboratory. Here customers can experience and trial innovative shopping trends, such as new ways of paying or personalised shopping. All they need is the avec smartphone app. Potential customers need to register their personal details via an ID card - or some other machine-readable identity document - using the camera function of their smartphone. Then they can use the app to scan the QR code as they enter the store, which gives them access to the sales area. In the convenience store, they simply scan the barcode of their chosen products using the Scandit-powered app and place them into their shopping basket. When they have finished, the shopping is completed using the “Pay” function.
The avec app is available for iOS and Android. A key component of the app is the scan engine - powered by Scandit software that turns any mobile device with a camera into a functional barcode and text scanner. This enables customers to capture their ID card for initial registration, as well as the QR code on the entrance and scan the barcodes of individual products. “We had already recognised Scandit as an innovative technology partner from previous projects and we knew that we could rely on their scan engine for the avec app. It works quickly and reliably, even in difficult light conditions. With the Barcode Scanner SDK from Scandit it was easy to integrate the scan function into the app,” says Dominique Martin, Manager Consumer Application for Valora in Muttenz, near Basel. “The core technology has to ensure that the app works quickly and easily, offers an attractive customer experience and can also be scaled up for a large customer base.” Error-free and reliable scan performance is central in any Scan-&-Go app to ensure customer satisfaction is not put at risk.
In the Future Store avec X, Valora is testing personalised shopping, among other things, deploying technologies that have not been used in the convenience segment before. After customers have scanned the QR code, for example on the coffee machine, they choose their individual combination and the machine notes their selection for the next time.
Store in a box - new compact format unveiled
In addition to their innovation laboratory, which operates without time limitations, between the 6 to 22 April 2019, Valora trialled a new, compact store format in Zurich’s main railway station – the avec box. The sales area is around 50 square metres - compared to between 800 and 900 square metres for a typical discount store. Here, too, the avec app is an essential prerequisite for shopping.
With the avec box, Valora wants to test a new store format and see how well it is accepted by customers. The avec box core technical solution, including integration into the backend systems, was developed in just five months, like the Future Store avec X, the avec box is another building block of the digital strategy being pursued by the senior management of the trading company. Valora is testing digital possibilities with the avec box, providing customers with greater flexibility and speed and, above all, simplifying their shopping experience. Scandit’s scanning software is an essential technology needed for this process.
“It was our aim to present the first functional version as quickly as possible, to get customers involved, learn from them and then use this knowledge to develop the model further,” explains Felicitas Suter, Senior Digital Innovation Manager at Valora. These experiences offer important information for further trials at various locations in Switzerland. Valora employees were present on site at peak shopping times at the cashless avec box in Zurich. They helped customers with questions about the app and the shopping experience and kept the shelves full and the store clean.
IT infrastructure in the cloud
The entire IT system for the cashless mini-supermarket runs in the cloud. The mobile app, including scan engine and payment function, is integrated in a backend SAP landscape, or to be more precise, in the customer experience and e-Commerce cloud platform SAP C/4HANA.
When customers register with their ID card, they are technically communicating with the SAP Customer Data Cloud. This cloud-based application helps Valora comply with European GDPR regulations governing the security and protection of personal data. The SAP Commerce Cloud provides the tools that Valora uses to develop and supply the customer experience.
“The customer experience plays a central role in the entire avec convenience concept of Valora. The process begins with registration and continues through customer contact and error handling and on to payment,” says Dominique Martin. “Customer experience and convenience are closely linked. With the new avec formats, convenience applies not just to the range of the store, but to the entire shopping experience.”