Co-op unveils retail transformation programme and pay-in-aisle app

Two big retail technology statements from convenience grocery chain Co-op this week underline the continual change the retail industry is undergoing.

Co-op has announced details of the first stage of its retail business transformation programme, known internally as RBT, and described by the company as the biggest transformation programme it has ever undertaken. It has also revealed plans to launch pay-in-aisle mobile payments in the coming days.

The RBT system pilot launched this week, with new technology from SAP introduced to improve ranging, stock holding, availability, and more accurate forecasting information. A new cloud-based supplier collaboration portal, called ‘Co-opConnect’ has been implemented.

Some 24 stores are testing the system, across five categories, around 300 SKUs, and alongside 15 suppliers. Categories being trialled include soft drinks, salads, paper, pizza and beer, and the test involves supplier involvement from the likes of Coca Cola, Heineken, Agrial Fresh Produce Ltd, Bakkavor Pizza & Bread, and Kimberly Clark.

Michael Fletcher, chief commercial officer at Co-op, commented: “The RBT programme is an integral part of Co-op’s on-going success, as we look to ensure that the technology we are using will future proof the business for many years to come.

“This pilot will allow us to work with suppliers to ensure that it is working perfectly before we roll it out elsewhere, and we are already getting positive feedback that the new portal is faster and easier to navigate.”

He added: “Investing in new technology will allow us to grow the business, helping to deliver a stronger Co-op that will result in stronger communities.”

On the subject of retail technology, Co-op is launching a new mobile payment app for use in 30 Co-op food stores in England, Scotland and Wales in the early part of August. The tool allows customers to scan products on their own device as they shop, with the amount spent deducted from their Apple Pay or Google Pay accounts with a touch of a button at the end of their shop.

The technology utilises the Mobile Commerce SDK, which is part of ACI Worldwide’s UP eCommerce Payments solution. This builds on an existing partnership between Co-op and ACI, which sees the retailer uses the UP Merchant Payments solution to manage card processing and secure payments data.

ACI also runs a cloud-based wallet service for Co-op’s loyalty membership scheme.

Mark Pettigrew, director of retail support at Co-op, remarked: “Technology is bringing unprecedented levels of change to retailing, with speed and ease seen as key drivers for time-pressed consumers.

“We know that people adopt technology at different speeds, and while cash is here to stay, it is clear that it is playing a lesser role in society. Retailers need to adapt and be agile, and this app builds added choice and convenience into the retail experience.”

He added: “Consumers lead busy lives and value their time. Whether it’s a train to catch or on the school run this technology cuts queues and saves time, enabling customers to complete their shopping quickly and get on with their day and what matters most to them.”

The new app sits alongside existing payment methods at Co-op, including cashiers and self-scan tills.