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Supermarket in a box gives staff chance to shop at work

SMART STORE: The WIB Machine sits in the STMicroelectronics office car park
SMART STORE: The WIB Machine sits in the STMicroelectronics office car park in Catania

Employees at chip maker STMicroelectronics’ Catania office in Italy can now order and pay for fresh food, groceries and personal hygiene products from their mobile phone and then collect their order from a unique “supermarket in a box” based in the office car park.

With the nearest shops more than 5km from the office, about 4,000 staff now have the chance to do their shopping at work using the unmanned store, which works in a similar way to a vending machine and has been developed by startup WIB Machine on behalf of supermarket chain Coop.

Staff can either choose from a range of products on the retailer’s website or through the mobile app, and pay using a credit card or PayPal. They then receive an eight-digit code that can be entered into a touchscreen at the machine to retrieve the products they have ordered.

They can also buy products directly from the machine by choosing from a catalogue displayed on the touchscreen, and pay using credit or debit cards or cash.

Orders of multiple items of different shapes, sizes and weights are automatically put together, allowing staff to pick up their shopping as soon as they leave work and go straight home without a detour to the nearest supermarket.

Products are stored inside ahead of ordering with stock availability managed online by Coop Qui to ensure items are kept fresh and replenishments are made as needed.

“STMicroelectronics’ plant is the perfect location, because you have more or less 4,000 employees without any commercial service in the radius of 5km,” Nino Lo Iacono, co-founder and CEO of WIB Machine, told NFC World+. “They can reach the machine in the parking lot and they can buy products from the machine just by selecting their products through the touchscreen device.”

“You can pay with credit and debit cards as well as bills and coins at the physical machine, and online and mobile you can pay with PayPal and credit cards,” Lo Iacono continued. “Our platform is the perfect solution to implement an actual point-of-sale system in every retail segment, from groceries to cosmetics to electronics to toys and so forth.

“We have embedded screens on our stores that are capable to tell the story of the brand, to tell the story of the product, to generate additional revenues from advertising and everything on the store can be managed online by the retailer, from prices to promotions to advertising content.

“Everything can be managed online with a couple of clicks. You can see data on sales and get alerts on imminent out-of-stock to replenish the machine very effectively and very efficiently.”

“We have several installations in the pipeline with other grocery chains here in Italy,” Lo Iacono added. “Our main objective right now is to test our stores, our automated solution, in other retail segments, for example electronics and cosmetics, where you have a higher margin and higher price.

“We are interested in evaluating those segments with our flexible platform and we are discussing with several players in the field internationally and we hope to set up new installations in the coming months.”

“The distribution method made available by Coop Qui simplifies the lives of people who refuse to sacrifice quality, even without the time to shop every day,” says Lucio Rossetto, CEO of Coop Sicilia. “Coop anticipates that this model will be popular with consumers and can be replicated in different locations in the city of Catania and worldwide.”