Technological advancements are springing up in the most unlikely of retailers. Take Lidl, which has this week moved further away from its no-frills philosophy with the trial of ‘scan as you shop’ tech in London. It comes exactly a year after the launch of its app-based Lidl Plus loyalty scheme – another concept that was, not long ago, deemed at odds with the discounter model.
Both pieces of tech could actually prove complementary to its way of working. Lidl Plus was number one in the app store for the first four days after its launch, and is already delivering a positive impact on sales, according to the discounter.
A ‘scan as you shop’ proposition could similarly prove a win-win. Customers have increasingly taken up scanning apps during covid, as they look to minimise contact and get in and out of stores as quickly as possible. This simultaneously works in the favour of Lidl, which can build on its famously quick turnaround at checkouts and reduce pressure on staff.
It all goes to show how difficult technology is to predict – particularly in the era of the pandemic. One man who is happy to take a definitive stance, however, is Ocado’s Tim Steiner. In an interview with CFO Stephen Daintith, he dismissed ultra-fast delivery apps as a “fad” that played into a “tiny market”.
The comments build on his assertions at Ocado’s latest results call, during which he shared a – wholly unrelatable – scenario about his willingness to spend £2,000 on an Ocado shop, compared to just £2.50 on a super-speedy app.
Steiner does highlight some genuine questions about the model. Basket sizes are unlikely to ever be that high, and operators need to charge steep delivery fees to make any money.
But the fact the US leader in this field, Gopuff, has just raised $1bn in new funding shows there is plenty of confidence in its potential. And Steiner is at risk of repeating history when he says rapid delivery is “just not how people are going to behave”.
After all, Ocado’s early doubters trotted out a similar line about online grocery. So it may not be long before Steiner considers whether ultra-fast delivery may, in fact, be more indicative of consumer behaviour than his £2,000 Ocado shop.