How Singapore’s first checkout-free store, Pick & Go, continues to evolve


These days, frictionless shopping is becoming more commonplace around the world. But a few years ago, it was still fairly cutting-edge. Back in 2019, three homegrown retailers in Singapore, namely Pick & Go, Octobox and Omo Store, showcased their versions of the unmanned retail store at a local exhibition.  Their concepts essentially utilised radio-frequency identification, cashless payments and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable shoppers to enter stores and buy items without having

ing to interact with salespeople.

Since then, Pick & Go has expanded its concept to four locations in Singapore – three in prominent universities and one in the central business district – making it the country’s first AI-driven unmanned convenience store chain. 

How it works

Shoppers at Pick & Go outlets just need to download the app, link their preferred payment method and scan a QR code or use facial recognition to enter the store;  pick up the items they want to purchase; and then, just walk out. They can check the e-receipts of their purchases on the app to make sure they haven’t been charged for anything extra.

“We piloted a store that stimulates [the] customer’s five senses which allowed us to be a finalist in [the] Singapore Tourism Award 2022 [for] outstanding retail store experience,” Alex Ng, director at Pick & Go, told Inside Retail.

This year has been a recovery year for the country, as its borders have reopened and commercial activities are on the upward trend again. And so far, Ng said that customer feedback has been very positive and engaging. Customers have been enjoying the convenience of the whole Pick & Go experience.

“Autonomous unmanned stores are still in their infancy stage in Singapore, thus education and assurance is required for this new shopping method. Our stores accept only cashless payments [and] thus may not be inclusive for all customer types,” he noted.

Key insights

According to Ng, running a retail concept like Pick & Go requires a few key fundamental elements: understanding customers’ needs, stocking the right types of products and great visual merchandising. These are the core factors that make a difference in the long run to the overall success of a business.

Technology, in his eyes, is merely an aid or catalyst for a retail business to reach its end goals. He feels that constant communication with customers remains extremely important in order to keep up with their ever-evolving needs and purchasing patterns.

“In addition to expanding more outlets in Singapore, we are in the midst of exploring to improve the shopping experience with the addition of [a] sixth sense – emotions. This would create a memorable shopping experience for customers,” he added.

According to Ng, other potential markets that Pick & Go is considering exploring include Australia, Vietnam and Copenhagen. When asked whether the company has explored venture capital or crowdfunding, he said that the clauses of a non-disclosure agreement prevented him from divulging any information.

Frictionless paradigm

In Singapore at least, Ng feels the government has an important role to play in supporting unmanned retail. He believes that with the support of the government or related agencies and associations, there will be greater awareness and understanding of how technology is able to support the retail sector as a whole.

“Retail stores will be able to operate more efficiently with longer operating hours up to 24 hours everyday, especially where the retail industry has been facing manpower constraints as one of [its] key long-term pain points,” he added.

He also feels that the implementation of the right technology would help to bridge the gap between available positions – typically for lower value tasks – and the skill sets available in the market.

Future outlook

Interestingly, Ng has revealed that Pick & Go is exploring augmented reality (AR) technology to enhance the shopping journey for its customers.

In the Asia Pacific region, Singapore is one of the most advanced countries in terms of new technologies in retail, but also the most exposed to external factors such as inflationary pressures, supply chain bottlenecks and rising costs across the board.

Ng is unflustered by all this. He is realistic enough to acknowledge that most of these factors are beyond his control. 

“We are constantly reviewing our operations to improve our fundamentals by understanding our customer’s needs and how we can continue to operate more efficiently by allowing our team to work on higher value tasks and have low value roles automated by technology where possible,” he noted.

One example would be inflationary pressures that are affecting everyone globally, from suppliers to customers. Ng reiterated that Pick & Go is always looking for ways to be prudent and efficient so that it can pass on savings to its customers.


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