A retail innovator, Valora transformed shopping experiences by successfully launching round-the-clock, cashless convenience at their compact, avec box stores in Switzerland. Customers use the avec mobile app powered by Scandit, on their smartphones, to enter the store, self-scan food and other convenience items, and pay for their shopping.
“We already recognised Scandit as an innovative technology partner from previous projects and knew that we could rely on their scan engine for the avec app. It works quickly and reliably, even in difficult light conditions.”Dominique Martin, Manager – Consumer Application, Valora
Innovate with self-scanning and ‘store in a box’ format
Valora operates 2,700 small scale retail outlets across Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. They are a retail trendsetter, offering convenience and food that’s quick and fresh.
Valora knew that the future of retail – whether online or offline, is inextricably linked to the use of smartphones. Hence, they wanted to offer scan-and-go shopping with an easy-to-use mobile app, to provide greater flexibility and speed to customers.
Introduce avec box, cashless compact store
To kick-off their plans, Valora wanted to trial a new, cashless compact ‘store in a box’ – the avec box – to ascertain its acceptance by customers. At 50 square meters, the sales area of the avec box would be much smaller than the typical 8-900 square metres for a convenience store, and required shoppers to use the mobile app to enter the store and to scan and pay for items using personal smartphones.
Create the avec mobile app with high-performance self‑scanning
Valora knew that error-free, fast and reliable scan performance was a fundamental requirement for any self-scanning shopping app. Without reliable high performance, customers will quickly lose interest. The scan engine for avec, their mobile app had to perform barcode scanning for self-scanning shopping, plus optical character recognition (OCR) to read the identity documentation needed for customer registration. Scandit’s barcode scanner SDK provided both capabilities.
According to Felicitas Suter, Senior Digital Innovation Manager at Valora,“with the barcode scanner SDK from Scandit it was easy to integrate the scan function into the app.” The mobile app, including the scan engine and payment function, was integrated into a backend SAP system: the customer experience and e-Commerce cloud platform SAP C/4HANA. When customers register with their ID card, the data is managed within the SAP Customer Data Cloud.
Offer seamless scan‑and‑go user experience
The mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. When onboarding, customers use their smartphone camera to quickly register personal details from any machine-readable identity document, such as an ID card or passport. The app is then used to scan a QR code at the store entrance to get in and start shopping. Self-scanning products with the app is easy – when the customer finishes scanning products, they pay using the “Pay” function on the mobile app.
Valora also personalizes the shopping experience. For instance, customers can have the coffee machine remember their coffee choice for next time, by using the app to scan the QR code on the coffee machine.
Successful avec box launch at Zurich railway station
Valora tested its first cashierless 24/7 convenience store inside Zurich’s main railway station, using the avec mobile app powered by Scandit. The avec box core technical solution, including integration into the backend systems, was developed in just five months.
Valora employees were present onsite at peak shopping times at the cashierless avec box in Zurich. They helped customers with questions about the app and the shopping experience, keep the shelves full and the store clean. There was a high level of customer satisfaction with the avec mobile app and the avec box store. The innovative store format, fast and easy shopping, and 24-hour access were well regarded by customers.
“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. Valora got a great deal of positive and valuable feedback from avec box customers during the first pilot period. The Zurich launch provided important information for further trials at various locations in Switzerland.
“The customer experience plays a central role in the whole 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.”