Schwarz Group-owned discount chain Lidl will roll out a smartphone application in Austria that shows instore product availability, reports Lebensmittel Zeitung. Customers will be able to search for stores nearby to see where the desired product is in stock, avoiding being faced with empty shelves. In addition, the app will show an estimate in green, orange and red indicating how many products are left. This will also be displayed for neighbouring stores to offer an alternative.The estimated in-stock availability is based on 12 months of sales history. SAP technology has been used for the development of the app. In Austria, Lidl’s merchandise management system is built on SAP for Retail, internally dubbed Elwis, which is powered by SAP HANA. With the help of in-memory computing, the software is able to process millions of data points in real time. Lidl's new operation in the US will also be supported by Elwis.
Discounters are not often at the forefront when it comes to the implementation of retail technology solutions. Lidl has now arrived with a solution that many customers have probably been waiting for to avoid wasting time on their shopping trip. In the early days of such solutions, the focus for availability services was solely based on real-time information, backed with inventory information from POS and merchandise management systems. Adding predictive analytics to this is a smart move as real-time has so far always failed to be ‘real real-time’.
We assume that customers will most likely use the availability check for Lidl’s promotional non-food offer rather than for the general food offer. It is questionable if the software can predict data for these items as precisely as for the general food offer as promotional offers cannot provide the same data history. Inaccurate forecasts could then be annoying for interested shoppers – maybe more so than without the app. Another way the app could backfire is that customers might cancel their shopping trip altogether, including their grocery items, if the desired non-food item is not available.The app is not the only technology investment that Lidl has made lately. In Portugal, the discount chain has piloted ‘Lidl Shop & Go’. This smartphone application allows customers to self-scan their products using the camera on their smartphones. To check out, the app creates a QR-code which is read by a so-called imager. Letting customers scan products with their phone instead of equipping stores with mobile devices limits investment costs and fits perfectly with the philosophy of a discounter.