Colruyt takes next step towards store of the future

Colruyt takes next step towards store of the future

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Colruyt Group is fully committed to in-store innovation. Last month, a new technology was tested to ensure that shelves remain optimally stocked, while also measuring how many customers enter the store and how busy it is at the checkout. A test with a cleaning robot is also currently ongoing in the store. A few initiatives aimed to contribute to a better service for customers and more efficient time management for employees.

Earlier this year, Colruyt announced the 'easy check-out', an innovative AI-driven checkout system which speeds up the checkout process by a fifth. Last year, the retailer launched the 'product finder', a system in which store employees save up to an hour and a half a day when putting products on the shelves. Colruyt is now again investing in in-store innovation, testing several new technologies to assist customers better and ensure that staff can use their time in a more targeted way.

It all starts as soon as customers enter the store. At the store entrance, a busyness meter is being tested to keep count of how many customers enter, completely anonymously. The purpose is to be able to estimate how busy the store is and plan the store employees' schedules accordingly. A busyness meter is also being tested at the checkout. In this way, Colruyt can ensure that enough store employees are available at the cash register when it gets busier. Virginie Vandenperre, head of sales services & promotion at Colruyt Lowest Prices: "Getting through the checkout quickly and efficiently is essential for our customers - nobody likes to wait long at the checkout. We are now testing these busyness meters in our store in Halle. We expect the waiting time at the checkout to decrease, especially in combination with 'easy check-out' which is already giving us nice gains from."

In addition, testing with a new technology is also ongoing to ensure that the shelves are always optimally stocked. The technology, developed entirely by Colruyt Group’s Smart Technics innovation team, links sales figures to the store's stock and the information of where those shelves with those products are located in the shop. This information is displayed in the form of a floor plan on a screen in the store's stock area. Employees can now see which shelves need to be replenished as a priority, to ensure that customers always find the right products at the right time.

A test is also underway with a shelf scanner, a camera that scans the shelves. This shelf scanner maps the status of the shelves through an automated process. In this way, store deliveries can be optimised and the appropriate place for a product on the shelf can be analysed. Both technologies work with artificial intelligence developed entirely by Colruyt Group and transmit data in real time. The benefit for consumers: products are reordered and delivered to the store in time manner, ensuring a well-stocked shelf and no overstock.

The Halle shop is also currently running a test with cleaning robots. The robots clean the floor to make sure the store is a tidy at all times. These are high-tech cleaning robots that meet the needs of shop.

Virginie Vandenperre: "There are a lot of advantages to these technologies, both for customers and for Colruyt. Because store employees can replenish the right products at the right time, be at the checkout at the right time and no longer required to do any cleaning, customers will always have the right product available at the right time and their waiting time at the checkout will decrease. Colruyt in turn saves time because store employees will be able to work more efficiently. They can spend time on other tasks in the store, which are fully dedicated to customer service."

Colruyt is testing the various innovative technologies at its Halle store. The first results are promising, although a longer-term test is needed to really identify the big gains. The next step will be a roll-out of the test to several stores.

Colruyt Group's supply chain is also investing heavily in innovation and digitalisation. In this way, the entire chain - from the product arriving at Colruyt until it leaves the store - will be digitised. More information on this will follow later.

The tests were developed with the support of VLAIO (Flemish Agency Innovation and Entrepreneurship).