Technology/Services

Choice Market’s New Contact-Free C-Store Is Just the Beginning

More omnichannel and Amazon Go-like concepts in the pipeline, says CEO
choice market bannock
Photograph courtesy of Choice Market

DENVER Choice Market recently opened its fourth location, its flagship, in the Mile High City—Choice Market Bannock—a 5,000-square-foot store that founder and CEO Mike Fogarty said is “reinventing convenience” through its mobile app, online ordering, click-and-collect options, contactless checkout and delivery in 45 minutes or less—either from Choice’s in-house team that uses a fleet of electric bikes and cars or third-party service providers such as Uber Eats.

The new store features Choice: Now, Aifi-powered camera-vision technology that allows shoppers to use the Choice Market mobile app upon entry to pick up their groceries and freshly prepared meals made in Choice Market’s scratch kitchen—and then leave the market without a traditional checkout. Customers will receive a receipt directly to their mobile device moments after they exit the market. But as “choice” defines this growing chain, Fogarty said, shoppers can also pay by traditional methods.

“This is a huge moment, not only for us, but for the entire industry,” said Fogarty. “In conjunction with our high-quality, personalized scratch kitchen, in-house native delivery and click-and-collect options, we are providing our customers with choice in terms of how they shop and ultimately creating a disruptive business model that is reinventing convenience.”

Choice’s mobile app also enables customers to shop the entire market by dietary lifestyle or recipes, all while acquiring loyalty points that can be redeemed for future discounted meals or groceries. Customers can also use the app to order any item in the market, including alcohol, and for delivery.

While Fogarty calls the Aifi-powered camera-only feature that allows for contactless checkout one of the most innovative pieces of the customer experience at the Bannock store, the entire store is a longtime dream come true for the CEO. “The size, the design, the format—this store is what we have always imagined Choice to be and what we see duplicating in Denver and other markets. This flagship store is really how we grow the business,” he told CSP sister publication Winsight Grocery Business.

Though the underlying technology is similar to the Amazon Go checkout-less experience, Aifi is camera-only technology, making this solution more affordable to implement for a “younger, smaller store like us,” added Fogarty.

“This is the largest camera-only store that we’ve launched in the U.S. to date and we’re excited to partner with Choice to bring seamless shopping to its customers,” said Steve Gu, co-founder and CEO of AiFi. “Compared to sensor fusion technology, camera-only tech makes the deployment of autonomous stores faster, easier and more cost-effective.”

Designed specifically for the Golden Triangle neighborhood, Choice Market Bannock will feature an extensive selection of groceries, including expanded seasonal produce, dairy and protein departments. There will also be a large selection of grab-and-go options, including deli salads, sushi, family meals and snack packs. With a commitment to local, high-quality fresh foods and groceries, customers will find products from more than 60 Colorado suppliers.

Choice Market’s full-service, scratch kitchen is another point of differentiation. Its classically trained and experienced chefs work to develop seasonal menus that feature fresh, local and sustainable products, including organic produce, hydroponic greens, cage-free eggs, and antibiotic-free and nitrate-free proteins.

Choice Delivered

How does Choice Market offer delivery in 45 minutes or less? “We benefit from being small with four locations, all within a few miles of each other. And that was by design,” Fogarty said. Choice’s small-format stores with limited SKUs allows for an expedited picking process.

Choice is focused on growing what it calls its “native” in-house delivery program, though it also works with third-party services, mainly for its prepared foods. “We try to convert third-party users to in-house delivery, as its more cost-effective and they can order the whole store,” said Fogarty, adding that Choice puts QR codes on all its products so shoppers can conveniently download the Choice mobile app on their phones.

“Among the deliveries that originate from the Choice mobile app, almost all have at least one or two grocery items in the order,” continued Fogarty. “As we had hoped and planned for, we are seeing two and three times the basket sizes on native delivery vs. third party delivery.”

Omnichannel Surfing

But the new Choice Market Bannock is just one of many innovative concepts in Choice’s pipeline. “A fully contactless, high-level model—more in line with Amazon Go—that’s less than 1,000 square feet is very much in the works,” Fogarty said, as is a 300-square-foot shipping container concept that only features SNAP-eligible products that would launch in under-resourced communities. “It’s an efficient way to provide communities with groceries where there’s not a traditional grocery store for five or six miles,” said Fogarty, who is eager to provide a solution to the food desert epidemic in the U.S.”

Another cashier-less, 1,000-square-foot concept is under consideration for airports. Fogarty is even considering vending machines, like perhaps one conveniently stocked with suntan lotion and towels at the roof pool of the luxury Parq on Speer high-rise apartment building in which Choice Market now occupies part of the ground floor. “Omnichannel and reinventing convenience really permeates our business,” said Fogarty, who aims for Choice to offer whatever the consumer wants—from suntan lotion to artisan sandwiches within reach.

Choice Market Bannock is open every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with plans to open 24/7 later this year.

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