Sainsbury's trials virtual queuing app in five stores

UK grocer Sainsbury’s has launched a virtual queuing trial in five of its stores, in the latest example of retail evolving traditional operations in light of the coronavirus crisis.

The supermarket chain’s Uxbridge, Pimlico, Dome Roundabout in Watford, Leicester North, and Newham Royal Wharf stores will provide the testbed for the new technology deployment.

Customers can download the app on their smartphone and join a virtual queue without needing to physically wait in line at the store. It comes after queues outside supermarkets have been a regular feature of the last few months, as demand for groceries surged as the country approached lockdown – and then visitor number restrictions were put in place in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19.

People in a virtual queue can monitor their position, on the app, from the comfort of their car, home, local coffee shop, or an alternative location nearby, before receiving a notification when they have reached the front of the line.

If a customer does not have a smartphone, Sainsbury’s colleagues will be on hand to add the customer to the queue and monitor accordingly. The trial will run until mid-August, with one reason for its deployment to help the retailer respond quickly should such a proposition be more urgently required in the event of a local lockdown or government guidance changes.  

There are several technology companies offering this type of technology, but Sainsbury’s has partnered with ufirst to test the service. Rival supermarket, Asda, is already testing similar technology with Qudini in its Middleton, Leeds store.

Nigel Blunt, director of eCommerce at Sainsbury’s, commented: “We will be listening closely to feedback from our customers and colleagues.

“We’re also rolling out SmartShop Mobile Pay to even more convenience stores, offering customers fast and contactless shopping that will help them get in and out of the store even quicker." 

SmartShop, which enables customers to use their smartphones to scan and pack their shopping, and track what they are spending as they go before paying through the app in the store, is now live in over 75 Sainsbury’s Locals. Some 40 more stores will follow this week, as the retailer looks to scale the technology across the UK.  

At the peak of the pandemic in the UK, SmartShop accounted for more than half of sales in some supermarkets. Sainsbury’s said it is serving over one million customers a week through the app.