Hybrid checkout experience in downtown Cologne, Germany
We wanted everything to be minimally invasive; the store was never a construction site. All the installation work was done in night shifts, so not to interfere with the ongoing business, as the store was open for customers as usual. The presence of technology in the store and the entire store data being digitized also provides many use cases that we can apply in the future, such as inventory management. But for now, for us, the main focus really is on autonomous checkout, getting this hybrid solution for our stores. This is the first time we are really able to make grocery shopping a frictionless experience.
As the fourth largest city in Germany, Cologne is the economic and cultural capital of the Rhineland, right on the Rhine River. The city has been an important trade center since the Roman era and its harbour is one of the larger inland ports in Germany.
Today, Cologne is a vibrant, liberal university town — home to 16 universities and over 80,000 students — that blends tradition and modernity. It is home to historic sites such as the Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, a charming Old Town that hosts one of the biggest annual Christmas fairs in Germany, and beautiful, expansive business and shopping districts lined with breweries, pubs, restaurants, and open-air spaces.
A new shopping experience
Right in the heart of downtown Cologne near the Old Town, grocery shoppers will have the opportunity to discover a new type of shopping experience where they can walk in, select their items, and simply walk out, settling all payments digitally.
Trigo is working with REWE, one of Germany’s largest grocery chains with 3,700 stores, to implement secure, Pick & Go shopping at an existing REWE location in the city and deliver Germany’s first checkout-free, autonomous retail experience under real-life conditions.
The Cologne store was selected, after careful consideration, by REWE digital, the grocery giant’s innovation arm tasked with keeping its finger on the pulse of digital trends and disruptive technologies and bringing new ideas to life. The shop will operate as a hybrid store where customers will have the option to shop traditionally while waiting at the checkout line, use self-checkout terminals, or use Trigo’s advanced systems to engage in the new era of retail – frictionless, checkout-free shopping.
Working with Rewe
For REWE, digital innovation has been part of the game for the better part of almost a decade. The Cologne-headquartered corporation formed REWE digital in 2014 — the first to do so in the grocery retail business in Germany. The division operates almost as a start-up within a major, successful corporation, and its main role is to identify emerging solutions and fast-track relevant, high-value products and services for next-generation grocery shopping.
Three years ago, REWE digital began closely monitoring the entry of computer vision in retail, and seeking to be among the first in this evolution, launched a search for the right company to help it offer automated, frictionless, checkout-free solutions. Anika Vooes, Innovation Manager at REWE digital, and her team traveled the world meeting with various firms and weighing different technologies. They found a match with Trigo, a global leader in frictionless checkout technology that, crucially, specializes in retrofitting existing grocery stores.
In Germany’s rigorous data protection landscape, Trigo’s privacy-by-design AI architecture was a natural fit as its technology does not use facial recognition, nor does it capture biometric data or hold any direct identifiers of customers. The system recognizes shoppers’ movement while they’re in the store without knowing who they are at any stage.
“Trigo’s was the team that impressed us the most technologically, the hybrid retrofits approach and people-wise, and they are one of the best partners for REWE,” says Vooes.
“It’s not just about a product that you buy. You need to work with people you can trust and find the right partners, knowing there’s a long path ahead. You find people that you believe can reach [technological] maturity, and who can attract good engineers to really push things forward. The technology really is cutting-edge,” she adds.
Heli Gil Netanel, Product Team Lead at Trigo says “REWE’s motivation was clear to us from the very beginning. They are market leaders, and if the world shifts towards a new era, they are one of the best global retailers to implement new technology and lead this change.”