Carrefour, the retail giant in the Middle East, unveiled its vision for the future of the sector Monday at a Dubai mall.
The Carrefour mini market looks just like Amazon’s unmanned grocery stores, which opened in 2018. It is stuffed with snacks and sodas, hidden between the sprawling buildings of this city-state.
Hidden among all the familiar food is a sophisticated system that tracks the shoppers’ movements and eliminates the checkout line. This allows people to walk out with the products they want. Only customers with the store’s app on their smartphones are allowed to enter. The ceiling is covered with nearly 100 small surveillance cameras. Numerous sensors line the shelves. Within five minutes, shoppers’ phones vibrate with receipts from whatever they have put in their bags.
“This is the future,” Hani Weiss (CEO of retail at Majid Al Futtaim), told The Associated Press. He was speaking on behalf of Majid Al Futtaim’s franchise, which operates Carrefour in Middle East. “We believe in physical stores for the future. We believe that the experience will be different.”
Carrefour City+ is an experimental shop that joins the rapidly growing field of retail automation. Machine learning software and artificial Intelligence are being used by major retailers around the world to reduce labor costs, eliminate long lines, and collect crucial data about shoppers’ shopping habits.
Weiss stated that “We use (the data] to provide a better shopping experience in the future… so customers don’t have too much to do with the next products they want.” All the insights are being used internally to improve customer shopping experience.
Weiss stated that customers must grant Carrefour permission for them to collect their data. The company will not share this information. Privacy concerns have been raised in the United States where Amazon Go, a futuristic store that collects vast amounts of data on shoppers, has already been raised. In the United Arab Emirates, which has one of the highest concentrations per capita of surveillance cameras in the world, it’s unlikely that this will be a topic of public discussion.
Major retailers are now forced to evaluate their future due to the pandemic. Many are investing more in automation, which could lead to severe job losses. Carrefour said that humans would still be required to “support customers” as well as assist the machines in the short-term.
Weiss stated, “There is no future apart from humans.”