Sainsbury’s has begun testing a new ‘Scan & Go’ smartphone app that allows customers to scan items as they shop rather than at the till.

The app syncs with your Nectar card so at the checkout you simply swipe your card and it registers all the items you have scanned. Payment is then made in the normal way.

Scan & Go is currently being trialled with a limited number of Nectar cardholders at two Local stores in London and a supermarket in Hampshire.

Luckily one of the stores involved in the Sainsbury's pilot scheme is round the corner from the Econsultancy office in Clerkenwell, so I popped in to give it a go...


To begin using the app, which is available on iPhone and Android, you need to enter your Nectar card number and an email address.

Upon entering the store you then scan a QR code positioned next to the door to begin shopping.


To add a product to your basket you need to scan the barcode on the item, which should be a simple enough process but actually takes quite a long time.

When I tested it, the app recognised the barcodes within a couple of seconds but then took at least 10 seconds to load the product information into my basket.

This could be because the app has to download information using 3G, in which case Sainsbury’s may have to invest in Wi-Fi in all its stores to ensure that the app performs well. 

The process of removing items is even more annoying. No longer can you just pick up an unwanted item from your trolley and put it back on the shelf.

Instead you have to scan the item’s barcode again, wait another 10 seconds, then put it back.

This might be a clever way of putting people off taking items out of their shopping basket, but from a usability point of view it would be preferable if you could just highlight an item and click a button to remove it from your list.


Once you’ve finished shopping you have to click ‘Finish & Pay’, scan a QR code at the till, and then swipe your Nectar card. 

This automatically uploads the contents of your shopping basket so you can just pay, pack your bags and go.


It’s important to remember that Scan & Go is still in beta so Sainsbury’s will no doubt be upgrading it based on customer feedback, but there are several usability issues that need to be fixed.

I’ve already mentioned the fact that the app is far too slow. Waiting 10 seconds for it to upload items to your basket seems like an eternity in a busy shop.

Similarly, requiring customers to re-scan items to remove them from the basket is frustrating and seems unnecessary.

But on top of that, the calls to action need to be changed as they’re small and quite easy to miss. In comparison, Tesco’s app uses big, bright CTAs that make it far easier for the user to know what to do next.


Also, even though Scan & Go is integrated with your Nectar card you can’t actually access your account information within the app. It would be useful to be able to see how many points you currently have, and how much you earn from each shop.

However, my main criticism of the app is that Sainsbury’s simply hasn’t been ambitious enough.

Waitrose has been running a similar scheme in some of its stores for more than 10 years, the only difference being that it hands out scanners at the entrance rather than relying on customers to use a smartphone app.

For Sainsbury’s app to be a real step forward it should have done away with the need for a Nectar card altogether. The barcode could sit within the app so customers could just scan it at the checkout to register their items.

Also, why not allow customers to store their credit card details within the app so they can pay with one-click rather than having to queue up and pay in the usual way?

Then customers could just load up their bags and leave, removing another step in the checkout process.

So, though it's good to see Sainsbury's trialling new technologies in-store I feel they've missed a trick by not being more ambitious.

David Moth

Published 19 November, 2012 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (6)

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I havn't used the app myself but from your review I would have to agree that it doesn't sound particularly innovative.

The thing I find most complexing is that customers using the app are still queuing at the tills at the end. As is said, it is still early days and it is good to see them trying out ideas, but at this stage it appears to be a tool for showboating rather than enhancing the customers shopping experience. A 'Click-and-go' feature or even a fast-lane scanner for users of the app should be introduced.

over 5 years ago


Mark Bennett, Sainsbury’s Head of Digital & Cross Channel

Hi David – thank you for taking the time to trial our Mobile Scan & Go technology and for posting your thoughts. I wanted to pick up on some of the points you mention here. Regarding the speed of the app: we provide free wifi access in the three stores where we’re currently trialling the app. You need but ask our colleagues for the password and you won’t have those 10 second waiting times when adding or removing items. Finally, regarding the trial not being ambitious enough: you make the point that handheld scanners have been available with other retailers for 10 years. Indeed, we’ve had these handsets in our stores for over a decade. Our Mobile Scan and Go trial at this time is very focused on understanding how comfortable our customers are with scanning items with their phone – and thus far, the feedback has been very positive. That said, you can be sure that we’ll be taking your feedback to heart and are looking to further increase the speed, usability and functionality of the app.

over 5 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

Hi Mark, thanks for your prompt response. I wasn't aware that there was free Wi-Fi in-store, but will certainly pop back to try it out again now that I do.

Also, I'd be interested to find out more about your mobile strategy. If you're available for a Q&A could you possibly email me at

over 5 years ago


Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I think this is a step in the right direction however I think that rather than a scan using the camera and using a Barcode there ought to be thought into using NFC tagging of the products and an NFC reader element to the app.

I know this is not viable right now as it is relatively new but given that NFC is slowly becoming more of a standard feature in new devices. In a year or two it could prove a faster way of scanning items and also collecting payment from customers.

I would be interested to know where your strategy plans to develop the App after the trial and I'll look in store if it gets rolled out nationwide!

over 5 years ago


Steven Smith

Sainsbury's have made an effort to enhance the customer experience through this mobile app but the problem is that you can almost take one step forward two steps back with these kind of things if they backfire. People have become so engaged with mobile technology that opening yourself up to the criticism for a poor mobile app can often be worse than not having one at all.

over 5 years ago


Marcia Hughes

I've used the app since the start and it has been problematic at times. All i can say is Mark Bennett needs to use the app in a busy store environment! There is always a problem scanning the same item in multiples (3) it will tell you it can't scan the 2nd item, so you scan it again, then you scan the 3rd item and end up with 4 scans and 3 items! This is very annoying and costly if you don't notice! Also I have had the terrible lag described by David Moth, even though I am logged into store wifi. I used the app successfully yesterday, but today I was locked out of the system (supposed to be for people who steal!!!) so customer services unlocked me and I shopped! At the checkout, my nectar card was accepted, but the items didn't come up on the till....I had to scan all the items through (good job there was only a few)! My concern now is..has this registered as an unpaid transaction? I'm keeping my receipt just in case!!! I understand this is a beta trial and am happy to take part, but can find nowhere on Sainsbury's website to give feedback/ get assistance. Even worse, none of the store staff have a clue what's going on, training is severely lacking, so an on site problem always ends in frustration, confusion or embarrassment. Come on Mr Bennett, sort it out!

over 5 years ago

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