To shop at Tesco Express High Holborn, you won’t need your wallet. Nor will you need to queue, use a checkout, or even pick up a basket.
The store’s camera and weight sensor technology will track what you put in your bag and you’ll be charged through an app after you leave.
Following in the footsteps of the till-free Amazon Fresh convenience stores, Tesco’s new London-based ‘GetGo’ shop brings contactless, tech-powered shopping to a familiar supermarket brand. But just how well does it work, and what’s the customer experience like?
Which? headed to Tesco GetGo to find out.
How does Tesco GetGo work?
To shop at Tesco GetGo, you’ll need to download the Tesco.com app and save your payment and Clubcard details in it. You scan in with the app at the entrance gates and scan back out when you leave.
While you’re shopping, you simply pick up the items you want and put them in your bag. The store’s many sensors and cameras will track what you’re doing and add those items to your bill.
When you scan out, Tesco will tot up your spend and charge you via the app.
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Video: inside Tesco GetGo
Which? video reporter Harry Kind took a trip to Tesco GetGo to test out the technology and customer experience in person. Here’s what he found:
- Find out more: Amazon Fresh store review
As Harry notes in the video, a recent hack caused all of Tesco’s online services to shut down. We asked Tesco what happened to the GetGo store during this outage, but it didn’t address that question in its response.
Harry also found the Tesco.com app sign-up process cumbersome, especially compared with his experience using the Amazon app at Amazon Fresh.
A Tesco spokesperson said: ‘For any customers who don’t have the app, our colleagues are on hand in our Holborn store to assist with setting it up.’
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What’s on sale at Tesco GetGo?
Based on the products on offer, Tesco’s GetGo store looks like a typical inner-city Tesco Express.
Alongside the usual fruit and veg, it has ‘free-from’ and baking sections, a bakery and a ‘reduced to clear’ shelf of discounted items. It also has the first Costa Coffee machine that makes iced drinks outside of Costa HQ, according to Tesco.
At a glance, the prices appeared typical of a London Tesco Express, though we haven’t carried out detailed analysis to prove this.
Tesco was the third-most expensive supermarket in October 2021, according to our monthly pricing analysis of the eight big grocers’ supermarket (rather than convenience store) prices.
- Find out more: which is the cheapest supermarket?
Contactless shopping: fad or future?
We’ve seen the supermarket experience evolve over the years, with once-novel self-service checkouts becoming the norm. So is removing checkouts altogether the natural next step?
Amazon certainly thinks so. It now has eight Amazon Fresh convenience stores in London – including one in High Holborn, close to Tesco GetGo. We visited the first one back in May.
Tesco says this branch is just a one-store trial at the moment. The company is waiting for customer feedback and further learnings before it considers launching more GetGos.
Still, while Amazon’s grocery stores could feel like high-tech anomalies transplanted from Silicon Valley, seeing one of Britain’s oldest supermarket chains adopt checkout-free technology does suggest it could be the future.
Sainsbury’s is set to follow suit, having recently announced plans to launch a checkout-free store using Amazon’s ‘just walk out’ technology, and once again the store will be located in London’s Holborn.
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Will checkout-free stores change our shopping habits?
When we reviewed the Amazon Fresh store, we spoke to Irene Scopelliti, Professor of marketing and behavioural science at Cass Business School, and Christain Eichert, a marketing and consumer behaviour lecturer at Goldsmiths University.
Both said that a faster shopping experience could mean people don’t take as much time to consider whether they really need the items they’ve picked up.
Scopelliti also said the ‘false sense of anonymity’ that comes from not having to face checkout staff might make some purchases feel less embarrassing than they could have been.
Who will be left behind?
One obvious drawback of the checkout-free experience is that it excludes shoppers who don’t have compatible smartphones, or who would prefer to pay with card or cash.
These shoppers are effectively locked out of Amazon Fresh stores. The High Holborn Tesco Express store has been cashless since it opened in 2020, so cash users were already shut out of this particular branch.
If Tesco and the other big supermarkets continue to expand into the world of checkout-free technology, convenience stores could end up being a lot less convenient for cash-based shoppers.
Which?’s Freedom to Pay campaign is calling on the government to guarantee that access to cash is protected by law for those who need it.
- Find out more: our campaign to save cash