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06/02/2022

Alimentation Couche-Tard to deploy 10,000 AI-powered cash registers

Next-generation self-checkout machines coming to stores in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Michelle Warren
Editor & Associate Publisher, Convenience Store News Canada
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McGill Retail Innovation Lab frictionless check out
The Retail Innovation Lab at McGill is a testing ground for frictionless payments.

LAVAL, Que. - Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is rolling out touchless "Smart Checkout" systems to more than 7,000 of its Circle K and Couche-Tard stores during the next three years.

The convenience giant says the 10,000 Mashgin Touchless Checkout Systems, branded as "Smart Checkout," are designed to improve customer checkout times as much as 400%, driving customer experience forward while allowing store staff to focus their time on helping customers.

The new global initiative builds upon the pilot, launched in 2020, that incorporated Mashgin systems across nearly 500 Circle K locations in the U.S. and Sweden, as well as at Couche-Tard's retail innovation lab store on the campus of McGill University in Montreal. The deployment represents one of the largest scale expansions of computer vision-powered checkout technology to date.

READ: The future of convenience stores: The co-directors of McGill University’s Retail Innovation Lab explore how new technologies and shifting consumer behaviours are converging to revolutionize the retail experience.

The "Smart Checkout" is a compact countertop device that fits into the existing store layout. It uses computer vision to recognize items presented from virtually any angle and instantly ring them up in a single transaction.

Customers place their items on the Mashgin Touchless Checkout System, which uses cameras to ring up everything in under a second. There is no need to download an app or find and scan barcodes; shoppers put items down, pay as they normally would, and are on their way in as little as 10 seconds, which the company says is eight times faster than traditional self-checkout.

"We're committed to investing in and scaling technology that sets a new standard for convenience with our customers and advances our mission to make our customers' lives a little easier every day," Magnus Tägtström, vice-president, global innovation at Couche-Tard, said in a release. "The Smart Checkout system powered by Mashgin's game-changing technology shortens lines, improves the customer experience and frees up our teams to focus on helping our customers. We look forward to introducing this new platform to stores across our network."

Mashgin chief technology officer and co-founder, Mukul Dhankar said: "Mashgin's core technology represents a major breakthrough in the world of artificial intelligence. By reinforcing computer vision models with three-dimensional data, we are able to reach 99.9% accuracy when ringing items. This innovation also allows the system to easily differentiate between different sizes of items with a similar appearance, and also makes it flexible enough to recognize grab-and-go foods like pizza or roller grill items that may look slightly different each time. Another key component to our technology is its ability to learn new objects in less than a minute and sync that data across stores, making it possible to set up a new store in under an hour."

The company said its surveys of first-time Mashgin users at deployed Circle K locations show that 80% of those customers prefer Mashgin to traditional forms of checkout and self-checkout. Recent updates to the system to allow cash use, fuel purchase and key loyalty programs like Sip & Save are driving customer adoption. 

"We've been hearing great feedback from our customers in the stores where Smart Checkout has been introduced, and it's easy to see why. Mashgin's platform is incredibly simple to use and highly intuitive for customers," said Alex Miller, EVP pperations, North America, and global commercial optimization for Couche-Tard. "Through this agreement, I am convinced that we will scale a great tool that makes it easy for our customers and team members, saving time and putting our customers and people first in our global operations."

Couche-Tard operates in 26 countries and territories, with more than 14,100 stores, of which approximately 10,800 offer fuel. 

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