Three autonomous store concepts in Latin America

Date : 17 March 2021

Oliver Butterworth

Retail Analyst

Autonomous stores are a growing trend we are seeing globally. Since the start of the pandemic, customers have preferred to shop in stores closer to their home. The compact size of autonomous stores enables businesses to open units that are closer, making them a convenient and safer option.

Here we explore three autonomous store concepts we have seen in the region. 

Oxxo Smart, Mexico

Oxxo is the biggest convenience retailer in Latin America, with close to 20,000 stores. It is currently trialling an autonomous store concept called Oxxo Smart.

Source: FEMSA

The small units are designed to serve customers in hospitals, apartment complexes and offices. They offer a varied assortment with around 400 SKUs. Fresh coffee is a key footfall driver in OXXO’s core estate, so it has installed coffee equipment to offer customers a selection of coffees to go.

Customers can access the stores using a registered app and pay for their shopping using self-checkouts. OXXO uses technology to manage its inventory remotely and automates replenishment using telemetry.

It is currently trialling two stores in Monterrey, where Oxxo owner FEMSA Comercio is headquartered. FEMSA is analysing the viability and performance of the format, which will determine a wider roll out.

Zaitt, Brazil

Startup and family-owned business Zaitt prides itself on being the first ‘smart store’ in Latin America. It now operates five fully autonomous stores, which are approx. 50-70sq. m. They are located on high footfall streets, close to businesses and dense residential areas.

Source: Zaitt

The stores offer over 200 different products. The varied assortment consists of food-for-now options, snack foods, soft drinks, confectionary, alcohol, a small selection of chilled items, and personal hygiene products.

Source: IGD Research

Customers are required to download the Zaitt app and register their bank details. They scan a QR code to enter the store and use scan & go technology, scanning each individual product’s QR code to add it to a virtual cart. When exiting the store, they verify the contents of their virtual basket on a screen and their registered bank account is automatically charged.

Source: Zaitt

Future Zaitt openings will open through a franchise model, with Zaitt playing a supporting role to new investors. We visited the retailers second store opening in the Itaim Bibi neighbourhood of São Paulo, read more here.

Hirota em Casa, Brazil

In response to the pandemic, and to support vulnerable sections of society, Brazilian retailer Hirota began opening autonomous micro convenience stores, located in common areas of condominiums.

Source: Hirota

Hirota em Casa (Hirota at Home) stores are made from adapted shipping containers which are between 15 and 30 sq. m. The range consists of approx. 500 SKUs covering food, beverages, fruits, vegetables, and refrigerated products (including meats and ready meals), as well as hygiene and home cleaning items.

Source: Hirota

Users are required to download an app, which is used to register their biometrics (for security). They receive a QR code (used for entry) and pay for their shop using self-checkouts.

Hirota operates 23 stores in the format and aims to operate 100 units by the end of 2022. We previously spoke to Hélio Freddi (Hirota CEO) about this interesting concept, more here.

One to watch…MiniGo, Argentina

Tech business Go2Future will open Argentina’s first autonomous store in April 2021. The first MiniGo will be located inside a corporate building in the affluent Palermo Hollywood neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.

The range will have 300 SKUs, consisting of soft drinks, snacks, dairy products, pasta, personal hygiene, cleaning products and more (no perishables or frozen foods).

Customers register their bank account details to receive a QR code, required for entry. Once inside, a series of cameras, weight, and movement sensors will automatically detect when customers remove products from the shelf, adding them to a virtual cart. When exiting, customers scan the same QR code they used to enter, and their registered account is charged automatically

As a technology company, Go2Future will not be buying or selling groceries itself. In an interview with ILACAD Retail, its CEO Eduardo Koglot said: “What we sell is technology and a physical space through a franchisee. Then each selling manufacturer is the one that sells to the customer, sets prices, makes their promotions. We give freedom to the seller to deal with directly with the client". The first store will be owned by Go2Future, but future openings will be franchised.

MinGo stores will be between 15 and 30 sq. m. Initially, expansion of the format will be limited to the capital city, Buenos Aires.  

Our view

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to people spending more time at home than ever before. Public health awareness has motivated shoppers to socially distance themselves and keep outings brief and local. Under these conditions, staff-less stores, particularly those opened in residential areas, will be desirable.

However, whilst being a practical solution for impulse and top-up purchases, the logistics of offering fresh produce will create challenges and limitations.

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