Loblaw lets shoppers scan as they go

The grocery giant introduced new tech this week that turns smartphones into checkout scanners

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Loblaw began testing new self-serve technology on Thursday that effectively turns smartphones into checkout scanners, allowing people to scan their groceries as they shop.

“This is just one way we’re looking to make the in-store experience as convenient and easy as possible, and to provide our customers with options that best suit their shopping needs and styles,” said Catherine Thomas, senior director of external communications for Loblaw Companies Ltd.

The new shop and scan option is part of an updated PC Express mobile app. Payment still happens at checkout, but Loblaw hopes to add payment capability to the app in the future so that users can simply scan their groceries and pay, all from their phone, without any lineups.

The shop and scan option is being tested at five Loblaws locations in Toronto: Queen and Portland, Leslie and Lakeshore, Forest Hill, Maple Leaf Gardens, and Glen Erin locations. Three Real Canadian Superstores in Ontario (Milton, Oakville and Argentia Road in Mississauga) will get the service in coming weeks.

The PC Express app—for iOS and Android—replaced the Loblaw and Superstore app earlier this month and can also be used for all online grocery ordering and pickup at a Loblaw location.

Those using the shop and scan function simply scan the barcode of each product as they go. Shoppers are being encouraged to bag their own groceries either with their own bags or with plastic bags from Loblaw customer service.

When their shopping list is complete, shoppers get a barcode for the total, which can be paid at any checkout including self-checkout kiosks or express lines. Some stores will have a dedicated express checkout lane for shop and scan.

“During the pilot, we’re testing the software and wanted to have the opportunity for a final checkpoint with customers at the kiosk or self-checkout station,” said Thomas. “As the program evolves, we plan to introduce in-app payment.”

As for concerns about theft, Thomas said the new shop and scan model is not that different than current self-checkout stations. “Canadians have been responsibly checking out their own products for decades using self-checkout lanes for everything from groceries to furniture,” she said. “This new technology is an evolution of that model.”

The Loblaw shop and scan is another example of a much larger retail trend, as giants of the industry experiment with ways to apply technology toward differentiated customer experiences. Amazon famously launched its Amazon Go stores, for example, earlier this year. And in China, Amazon’s challenger Alibaba has been adding cutting-edge innovation to its Hema grocery stores that could provide a hint of where the trend is heading.