Since a few months ago, the supermarket chain Aldi has been testing a fully automated checkout-free store in Utrecht and London (Aldi Shop & Go).

This is a classic but always interesting move of prototyping at scale technology to understand how your market reacts to it and, most importantly, if there's any value to it.

The high degree of digitalisation in the Netherlands means that we are convinced that we have the right climate to trial new technologies such as these. - Jan Oostvogels, CEO of Aldi Netherlands

On this, M. Oostvogels is certainly right. The Dutch consumer is an excellent canary in the digital coal mine for the rest of the European market.

But there's a problem. Not many consumers seem to be frequenting this concept store which remains mostly empty. The reason seems to be that Aldi is not dealing properly with the key friction point of such an experience: onboarding. Besides the necessity of installing a specific app (avoidable but acceptable), and creating an account (more friction, probably to get more data that Aldi will not really use), you need to link a credit card. And you probably think, what the big deal is? There is essentially no credit card in the country but debit cards.

The Dutch, famously financially savvy and debt-adverse, have adopted an e-payment standard since 2005 called iDEAL, which allows you to be essentially cashless and pay everything with your phone or a contactless PIN card.

The end result for Aldi?

Well, let's have a slice of Dutch straight talk ...

Quite the irony that aiming for such a frictionless experience falls short for such a silly reason. Now, of course, this will probably be fixed shortly, but still.

This is the thing with using "canary in the mine" markets; you have to understand them first to really be able to use them as test subjects, or you're going to be lost in translation 😌

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