Alimentation Couche-Tard is deploying contactless, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven “Smart Checkout” systems to more than 7,000 of its Circle K and Couche-Tard convenience stores.
Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard said it plans install 10,000 systems from technology partner Mashgin at stores in the United States, Canada and Europe during the next three years. According to the companies, the Mashgin Touchless Checkout Systems speed up customer checkout times as much as 400%. Since 2020, 500 Circle K stores in the U.S. and Sweden and Couche-Tard’s retail innovation lab store at McGill University in Montreal have been equipped with the next-generation checkout solution.
“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 of global innovation at Couche-Tard, said in a statement. “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.”
Smart Checkout is an AI-powered, compact countertop device that fits into the existing store layout. Its computer vision technology recognizes items presented from virtually any angle and instantly rings them up in a single transaction. The device doesn’t require an app, and customers don’t have to find and scan barcodes. Shoppers set items down and pay as they normally would in as little as 10 seconds, eight times faster than traditional self-checkout, Couche-Tard noted.
“Mashgin’s core technology represents a major breakthrough in the world of artificial intelligence,” according to Mukul Dhankar, chief technology officer and co-founder of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Mashgin. “By reinforcing computer vision models with three-dimensional data, we are able to reach 99.9% accuracy when ringing items. This innovation 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,” Dhankar added, “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."
Eighty percent of first-time Mashgin users at deployed Circle K locations said they prefer Mashgin to traditional forms of checkout and self-checkout, a Couche-Tard survey found. Recent updates allowing cash use, fuel purchase and key loyalty programs like Sip & Save have driven customer adoption, and Couch-Tard reported that Smart Checkout has become shoppers’ preferred way to transact at some Circle K locations.
“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,” commented Alex Miller, executive vice president of operations for North America and global commercial optimization at Couche-Tard. “Mashgin’s platform is incredibly simple to use and highly intuitive for customers.”
To date, Mashgin has processed over 36 million transactions in more than 800 locations, including Circle K and other convenience store chains, airports and 30-plus U.S. sports stadiums and entertainment venues.
“We’ve already saved people over 30 years of standing in line,” stated Abhinai Srivastava, co-founder and CEO of Mashgin.
Overall, Couche-Tard operates more than 14,100 convenience stores under the Circle K (U.S.), Couch-Tard (Quebec) and Ingo (Sweden and Denmark) retail banners in in 26 countries and territories, with about 10,800 locations including fuel centers.