Sainsbury’s begins trial of virtual queuing system in five UK stores

UK retailer Sainsbury’s unveiled a virtual queuing system in five stores as part of a trial to test whether the technology will help customers stay safe, save time and shop conveniently in stores.

Shoppers who download the ufirst app on their smartphone can join a virtual queue without physically waiting in line at the store. They can then monitor their position in the queue from their car, home or coffee shop and they will be notified when they are at the front.

“We’re always on the lookout for how we can make our customers' lives easier using technology," said Nigel Blunt, Director of eCommerce at Sainsbury’s. "We’re trialling a virtual queuing system and we’re also rolling out SmartShop Mobile Pay to even more convenience stores, offering customers fast and contactless shopping that will help them get in and out of the store even quicker."

It is the first time the ufirst app technology has been tested in the UK as Sainsbury's hopes to capitalize on changing customer habits during the pandemic. They are trialling the new app with customers shopping at Sainsbury’s Uxbridge, Pimlico, Dome Roundabout in Watford, Leicester North and Newham Royal Wharf.

The trials runs until mid-August and will determine how well both customers and colleagues manage the systems of queues and traffic flow in and out of stores. It will also help Sainsbury’s respond quickly should such a proposition need to be implemented at short notice in the event of a local lockdown, or scaled up if government guidance changes.

To offer customers more ways to shop safely in convenience stores, Sainsbury’s is also rapidly rolling out its SmartShop Mobile Pay app which offers till-free and contactless shopping. The retailer says customers can use their smartphones to "scan their shopping, pack it and track what they are spending as they go, then pay for it through the app, without needing to go to a physical till."

The app is currently live in more than 75 Sainsbury’s Locals, and the supermarket chain is expected to add 40 more this week. SmartShop now accounts for more than half of sales in some supermarkets, and Sainsbury’s is serving over one million customers a week through the app.

Sainsbury’s was the first UK supermarket to trial till-free shopping in 2018 and the first to experiment with a totally till-free store in 2019.