Couche-Tard Launches Retail Tech Lab

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., has launched a retail innovation lab at McGill University’s Bensadoun School of Retail Management. The state-of-the-art store will enable ground-breaking research and test innovations, including frictionless technologies helpful in societies currently experiencing a pandemic.

A statement released by the Laval-based retail chain explained that this is a joint effort to transform customer experience at a critical time for retailers. a world-class university and a global retailer are coming together to create one of North America’s first live, open laboratory stores. Located on McGill University’s downtown campus, the lab is currently open at reduced hours and for a limited number of customers in store until local public health authorities deem it safe to operate at full capacity.

“By combining artificial intelligence and retail management, this retail innovation lab at the Bensadoun School of Retail Management will allow our researchers to develop new initiatives and technologies to improve the customer experience for the retail sector with the help of industry partners,” said Professor Morty Yalovsky, Dean of McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management. “We are excited to welcome one of Canada’s largest retailers, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., as the first industry partner of our lab to help shape the future of retail during this pivotal moment in history.”

“This new store on the McGill University campus is a unique demonstration of our commitment to find new ways to make our customers’ lives a little easier,” said Deborah Hall Lefevre, Chief Technology Officer, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. “At Couche-Tard, we are always searching for innovative solutions that improve the experience for our customers in our stores. By having a live laboratory, we are confident that the research projects and technologies successfully tested at the lab may eventually be implemented in some of our 14,220 stores across our global network,” she added.

The lab is one of Canada’s first retail laboratory stores open to the public, and the partnership between the university and a retailer is also a first in research on retail management.

One of the first frictionless stores in Canada, the Couche-Tard Connecté section is specially designed with frictionless technologies to allow autonomous and contactless checkout. Using an app, customers can unlock the door to walk into the Connecté section, pick up items and leave. The items selected will be recognized in real-time, and payment will be processed automatically in the app. A first in Canada’s convenience store sector, the frictionless store will allow Couche-Tard store team members to spend more time on service, speed up in-store visits, and make its customers’ lives a little easier every day. A frictionless option is also becoming increasingly desired by retail customers during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 will continue to have a significant impact on retailers, especially with regards to the traditional in-person customer experience,” said Professor Saibal Ray, Academic Director of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management. “As society progresses into our ‘new normal’ of physical distancing, it is increasingly important for researchers and students to study the evolving shopping experience of the future.”

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