Moscow gets unmanned Amazon Go-variant

Unmanned shop of X5 Retail Group in Moscow
Photo: X5 Retail Group

Russian supermarket group X5 has opened its first unmanned, contactless store in Moscow. 7 days a week until midnight, customers can visit the automated store which is inspired by Chinese self-scan shops and by Amazon Go.


What city dwellers need

In Moscow, X5 Retail Group gives a new meaning to 'convenience' with the opening of a convenience store that is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to midnight, without the presence of an employee. Customers go in and out with their smartphones, and products are also scanned and paid for on the move. Although there is an (unmanned) cash register for those who wish to do so, customers do not have to queue up: checkout is done in the app when leaving the store.

The store, under the Pyaterochka banner, is located on Velaskesa Boulevard and has an area of only 80 square metres. The range of around 900 products is aimed at young modern city dwellers - millennials and generation Z - who "prefer fast and contactless purchases from nearby stores". Among other things, the shop offers fresh coffee and an everyday fresh assortment.

After the trial period, a decision will be made on the further roll-out of the concept on the basis of feedback, but the retail group is already determined to set up similar tests in other neighbourhoods of the city. According to the retailer, the concept comes in handy especially now in times of corona: "The ability to simply pop into the store, buy what you need and avoid unnecessary social interactions is just what customers need during this public health crisis," says managing director Sergei Goncharov.


Technologies come together

In practical terms, the store functions as a kind of 'smart home', says X5, with an 'internet of things' architecture that, thanks to special sensors, monitors the entrances, exits, customer location and lighting in the store. The store is also equipped with CCTV, while the app offers a chat function and a hotline for customers with questions or problems. The sensors also monitor social distance and overall security.

As with Amazon Go, there are also intelligent cameras and sensors that can determine whether customers are actually buying products, whether they have just taken them off the shelf and put them back. Most technological solutions are developed by the company itself. "Some of these systems are already well known – self-checkout units, electronic shelf labelling, and the express scan system have been around for a number of years now," admits General Manager Sergei Goncharov, but now they come together in a new shopping experience.

X5 says they have all tested the technologies thoroughly and are now able to roll them out with full confidence. Nevertheless, during the first weeks after the opening, an employee will be present to answer customer questions and ensure that everyone complies with the corona regulations.