Ahold Delhaize prepares for 'tap to go' NFC mobile shopping

Thursday 28 December 2017 | 13:42 CET | Background
Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn is developing an NFC system that will enable customers to quickly scan and pay. The payment method is now being tested in the AH to Go store at the head office in Zaandam and will be introduced in 2018 in more AH to Go stores. In these small stores, speed is all-important. The method, called Tap to Go, will speed up the payment process and so increase sales. Albert Heijn provided a video with the first details. It shows that the store is equipped with electronic shelf cards. These do not give any price or details on paper, only on a small screen.

These electronic shelf cards are also equipped with NFC. The price can be scanned with a scanner the size of a credit card. It is also possible to put an article back and to remove it from the list. After ten minutes, the total amount is debited from the linked payment account. Ahold Delhaize has cut a contract with a bank to enable this.

Many details are not yet clear. For example, it is not clear where the customer can get a receipt. It could possibly be printed at an unmanned cash register by offering the scan card again. These and more details should become clear over the course of 2018 when the formula is rolled out. Ahold Delhaize did not respond to questions by e-mail. What this card is going to cost is also not yet known.

A scanner that can recognise card holders

The special bonus card with NFC could be a passive card. Each card can be given a unique number, which must be linked to an account with a payment option. As soon as a pass is presented to a shelf card, a new shopping list is created. It is a given that Albert Heijn will also link the payment service to the AH to Go app. That app already contains the daily discounts and savings cards for free products, such as a piece of fruit or a cup of coffee. To activate these discounts, a QR code must be displayed at the cash register. The app is not yet suitable for payment.

To replace the NFC card, the AH to Go app must have NFC functionality. Android smartphones with NFC are already suitable for this. The app can communicate with the NFC hardware in the phone, regardless of the mobile operator. That is more difficult with an iPhone. Apple has expanded RFID possibilities for developers this year, but has not released anything yet. Moreover, Apple Pay is not available in the Netherlands.

In October, One More Thing said, citing sources, that Apple Pay would soon launch in the Netherlands. The announcement would come on 2 November with the release of Apple's quarterly results, but this did not pan out. That said, it is very likely that retail banks have already tested the Apple system and could launch immediately. However, they depend on Apple´s launch schedule. In principle, it is possible to launch an NFC service in the Netherlands that only works for Android. The high market share of the iPhone makes it less attractive, but not impossible.

Faster payments could increase sales

It is no coincidence that Ahold Delhaize is introducing such a system for AH to Go. The shops with that concept carry a limited range and are most often located in busy places, such as NS train stations. The speed of the payment process has more influence on consumer behaviour than in an ordinary Albert Heijn store. Faster payments can generate additional revenue and possibly also save on staff costs, important factors in this retail segment.

Paying without the supervision of an employee could heighten the risk of fraud. There is (even) less interaction between customer and store employee, and so less control. On the other hand, anonymous payment with this method is not possible. Each scan payment is recorded on the AH to Go account linked to the scan card. Camera surveillance can be used to combat fraud, especially if the images can be analysed automatically.

Electronic shelf cards have been around for years, but are still mainly used because they save time when adjusting prices and finding products in a large store or warehouse. Ahold Delhaize is doing pioneering work by connecting a payment product and a mobile phone. The development of mobile payments has been difficult because this has only recently become feasible.

Free Headlines in your E-mail

Every day we send out a free e-mail with the most important headlines of the last 24 hours.

Subscribe now

::: add a comment