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Aldi's exterior and checkout guide
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Aldi Tests First Automated Checkout Store with Grabango Tech

McMillanDoolittle recently visited Aldi’s first-of-its-kind automated checkout store in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, IL. Located about 8 miles away from company’s U.S. headquarters in Batavia, IL, the store is adorned with signage inside and outside promoting the trial of its new automated checkout technology, dubbed “Aldi Go”, that enables customers to simply “Shop. Scan. Go.” and bypass the traditional checkout process. Check out our Instagram Reel to watch the video recap of our Aldi Go store visit. 

auto checkout signs

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In partnership with Grabango, a startup known for its checkout-free shopping technology, Aldi shoppers entering the store are encouraged to scan a QR code to download the Grabango mobile app, as opposed to an Aldi Go-branded app like I was expecting. Within minutes of downloading the app, users can quickly input their email and credit card information and begin shopping. As a first-time user, I was expecting to have to “check-in” in the app and select this specific Aldi store or, at a minimum, to push a “start shopping” button but neither step was required. Once the app is downloaded and payment details are registered, Aldi Go app users can walk in like any other customer and begin shopping, without needing to open the app until checkout. The only caveat stated in the app was that multiple customers could not share a single shopping cart or hand each other items, meaning I assigned my partner to do all the cart pushing and grocery shopping, while I was freed up to galivant about the store, take photos, and chat with store employees. 

Grabango app directions

Photo Credit: Grabango

A Grabango store representative spoke with McMillanDoolittle to explain how the Grabango technology works. When customers enter the store, every single person is assigned to a virtual shopping cart, regardless of whether they have the Grabango app downloaded or not. Rows of black overhead sensors track each person’s shopping journey, tracking what items are added or removed from carts, as well as noting items that require special assistance, such as age-restricted items like alcohol or variable weight items like certain types of fruits and vegetables.  

store aisles

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When Aldi Go shoppers are ready to check out, they head to an Aldi Go checkout kiosk manned by a Grabango employee. The kiosks, which resemble a typical self-checkout kiosk, have built in sensors that quickly scan the customer’s shopping cart, essentially doing a final check that matches what is in the physical shopping cart to the virtual cart that the store’s overhead sensors were tracking throughout the shopping trip. The employee checked our IDs for an alcohol purchase as well as weighed a bag of grapes for us, then my partner scanned a QR code from the Grabango app to check out. After scanning the app-generated QR code, the employee said we were all set to leave – no need to scan individual product barcodes or swipe a credit card – and that we would receive a receipt within two hours.  

AldiGo checkout

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Aldi Go presents itself as a clear rival to Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology currently deployed in select Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods stores, as well as Amazon Go convenience stores and various third-party retailers. In the Just Walk Out shopping experience, customers first must either scan an Amazon app QR code, scan their palm via Amazon One biometric scanners, or swipe a credit card at third parties such as Hudson News’ “Nonstop” airport convenience concept. Shoppers swipe or scan in at the beginning of their shopping trip and then again when they are ready to check out of Just Walk Out-enabled Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods stores. Just Walk Out shoppers can open group tabs with multiple people and can charge their purchases to a single credit card or Amazon Prime account. In contrast, Aldi Go does not ask for a personal identifier like a QR code until the end of the trip and is not currently enabled to have multiple shoppers associated with a single transaction. 

Amazon Fresh Just Walk Out

Amazon Fresh Just Walk Out shopping. Photo Credit: McMillanDoolittle

In addition to Aldi Go’s lack of a group shopping feature, a shared flaw between the two automated checkout technology rivals is that we need to wait up to two hours to receive our receipt. By the time a customer receives their receipt, chances are they are long gone from the store and not going to turn around and head back if there is a discrepancy to dispute. The receipt lag time suggests that the technology is not yet fully automatic and there is likely a real person on the backend somewhere in the world checking footage and verifying our purchases before pushing out a receipt within the guaranteed timeframe. The technology also is not perfect; we were charged for an item that we ended up putting back on the shelf, but Grabango made the refund process a simple one-click process in the app and within 2 days we received an email from a representative notifying us that a refund was being issued. 

Aldi's fresh product

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Aldi’s first-of-its-kind automated checkout store is located at 2275 W Galena Blvd in Aurora, IL, and technology aside, looks and feels a lot like a typical Aldi supermarket. A Grabango representative told McMillanDoolittle that they have been developing the checkout-free technology with their largest client Aldi for the past two years and quietly opened the technology up to the public at this location in November. Aldi Go does not currently accept cash or Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments, so customers using these payment methods must transact through the store’s traditional checkout lanes, but the company is planning to add EBT and direct credit card payment options (in lieu of the QR code) to its suite of accepted payment types in the coming months. As Aldi and Grabango continue to expand the capabilities of Aldi Go technology, the partnership poses a formidable challenge to the incumbent Amazon’s Just Walk Out systems, and both continue to shape what the future of food retailing will look like. 

Want to keep up with the latest in food and grocery innovation? Check out McMillanDoolittle’s recent coverage of McDonald’s first-of-its-kind CosMc’s beverage concept and Chicago’s Asian-inspired Gangnam Market. 

Amanda Lai

Amanda manages McMillanDoolittle’s food retail practice and supports strategic planning, retail concept development, consumer research, and real estate analysis for a wide range of global retail clients. Since joining the team in 2017, Amanda has worked with brands across the Grocery, Restaurant, Apparel, Consumer Electronics, Automotive, and Real Estate sectors. She has been featured as a subject matter expert on TD Ameritrade, CBS News, and Chicago’s WGN Radio, and has been quoted in publications including The Chicago Tribune, Crain’s, Progressive Grocer, Drug Store News, and Convenience Store News.

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