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Carrefour’s Flash 10/10 c-store deploys avatars and AI to speed purchases

A new convenience store concept in Paris, Carrefour Flash 10/10, uses cameras, connected shelves, sensors and avatars to tally purchases and payments, serving customers in 20 seconds.

The store was developed in partnership with Californian start-up AiFi using technology the retailer says has never been seen before, aimed at offering customers the most accessible and fastest shopping experience possible.

Located in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, Carrefour Flash 10/10 offers about 900 everyday products. The 10/10 in the name references “10 seconds to shop and 10 seconds to pay”. Customers need not scan any products, and payment is almost instant.

“Customers don’t even have to take their items out of their bag,” the company said in a statement when the store opened Wednesday. “This saves time for customers and creates a smoother experience.”

Customers do not have to pass through a gateway to enter and exit the store and there is no need to download an app or to register before shopping. Their spending can be viewed in real-time.

At the heart of the concept is a raft of connected digital technologies: 60 HD cameras, nearly 2000 sensors built into connected shelves, an algorithm for interpreting all the data, and a proprietary tablet payment system.

Customers are tracked anonymously in store as a virtual avatar, which is allocated to them as they enter the store. The products they pick up are automatically detected and added to their virtual shopping basket.

Once finished, customers have their baskets validated at a kiosk and pay contactlessly. An electronic receipt is sent to them instantly by scanning a QR code. Those who prefer to pay by cash can use an automatic checkout kiosk.

Just four employees will be on-hand to open the store and oversee operations, keeping it clean and tidy, manage the brand’s e-commerce services – such as pedestrian click-and-collect – and offering advice to customers when necessary.

Carrefour tested the concept in a trial store at its head office in Massy for more than a year, refining the technology and adapting it based on feedback from employees using it on a daily basis.

“The Flash concept checks our customers’ expectations,” said Elodie Perthuisot, Carrefour Group’s executive director of e-commerce, data and digital transformation. “They want to be able to enter the store easily, know what they are buying, pay quickly and then leave. Compared with other existing concepts, with Carrefour Flash, customers get speed and accessibility in a unique way.”

Ying Zheng, co-founder and president of technology partner AiFi, described the Flash 10/10 concept store in Paris as “one of the stores with the most advanced technology in the world”.

This is not Carrefour’s first foray into contactless shopping. In March of this year, the retailer’s Brazil division launched Flash Scan & Go – a store where customers can use their smartphones to shop and pay for the products they want to take home. Six of these stores are currently operating in Brazil, and another eight are slotted for opening before the end of the year.

And in September, Carrefour launched its “Carrefour City+” concept in Dubai alongside Emirati partner Majid Al Futtaim.

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