Poland’s InStoreTech ZeroQs Sets Eyes on International Markets

  • Polish in-store tech startup ZeroQs partners with the country’s major store chains
  • Its SmartCarts allow for facilitated self-checkouts and increased shopping experience, among other advantages
  • The startup prepares for international expansion and finetunes the technology for completely autonomous stores

ZeroQs is the Polish startup that offers an innovative mobile self-service checkout at supermarkets. This November, it announced partnership with major Polish chains, including Społem and Detal Centrum, and deployment on their sites.

Long Checkout Lines and Customer Dissatisfaction

Jarosław Kaczmarczyk, Co-Founder and CEO at ZeroQs

The startup was founded in 2018 by Jarosław Kaczmarczyk and Tomasz Brulinski, both engineers with extensive experience in managerial positions at manufacturing companies, where they were responsible for technology, quality, and customer satisfaction. In their previous companies, their clients were suppliers to retail chains. Through this experience and many discussions, they identified a common problem: dissatisfied store customers are not interested in purchasing anything due to the issue of long checkout lines at stores.

Indeed, queues at stores are nothing out of the ordinary, and we are usually used to them. Still, it most probably happened to everyone once or twice when we get disappointed with long lines of people and end up not buying anything – at least, at one particular store.

The self-checkout solutions have been available on the market for a while now. They are safe for retail chains and convenient for customers, but they don’t really shorten the waiting time in case of a store’s overcrowding. Instead, they replace the responsibility of checking the goods at the register from the cashier to the shopper. Besides, they are still prone to error and often require human assistance or intervention.

Improving the Shopping Experience Through Autonomy

ZeroQs developed a technology that combines the security of retail outlets with customer convenience, while also offering even greater time savings and an elevated level of shopping experience. Their SmartCart is a proprietary shopping cart with an in-built weighing and surveillance system, barcode reader, and touch screen.

‘The customer puts the goods into the shopping cart and scans the barcode of each item using an integrated reader. The weighing and vision system controls the entire shopping process, which protects retail chains from possible theft, attempted fraud or customer confusion. As the customer leaves the store, the payment is automatically charged from their account,’ ZeroQs’ co-founder and CEO Jarosław Kaczmarczyk explains.

When the shopper has insufficient funds, they must uncheck and return some of their purchases. ZeroQs set this as one of the natural and fundamental functionalities of its SmartCart. The user can remove goods without the involvement of staff.

Michał Lewandowski, Managing Partner at Freya Capital

Mr Kaczmarczyk tells ITKeyMedia that SmartCart’s visual and weight system is highly sensitive and requires mounting it on specially adapted frames to guarantee its effectiveness. As such, ZeroQs manufactures the entire solution in cooperation with partners who supply some of the components under its license to expedite production.

Savings for Stores

Returning to the staff issue, the savings from the automation offered by ZeroQs can be quite significant for store chains, seeing how the market is currently witnessing an increasing problem with rising employment costs. According to GUS data from the fourth quarter of 2022 shows a 14.2% increase in employment costs compared to the previous year, and the employment cost index between the first and fourth quarters of 2022 increased by 8.3%. This poses a feasible challenge for various sectors of the economy, particularly the retail sector, which ZeroQs’ solution can help tackle.

Poland’s major chains, such as Społem and Detal Centrum are already ZeroQs’ clients. Mr Kaczmarczyk assures that the stores don’t need to reorganize their entire sales process, but rather to complement it with a new form. That said, the CEO also admits that ZeroQs is already in discussions with clients who want to open new outlets equipped primarily with this form of customer service and even to create autonomous stores based on SmartCart technology.

Additional Benefits

According to Freya Capital’s analysis and reports available in the market, such as McKinsey’s Transformation in Store, automating in-store processes, implementing effective inventory management to reduce waste, and providing customers with an exceptional shopping experience can significantly increase EBIT margins, possibly even doubling them.

Zbigniew Barwicz, Managing Partner at Freya Capital

‘This demonstrates that innovative solutions like SmartCart from ZeroQs have the potential to transform the way we shop today and in the future, benefiting both consumers and businesses,’ Freya Capital’s managing partner Michał Lewandowski comments.

His colleague Zbigniew Barwicz additionally points out that ZeroQs doesn’t only streamline the shopping process, but SmartCarts also collect data about customers and their shopping preferences, which allows analytics and predictive departments and store managers to make better and more accurate decisions. Mr Barwicz reminds that the global market for in-store analytics alone is estimated at USD 3.43B in the current year and suggests that the aggregated data facilitates personalized advertisements that may be displayed to customers on shopping carts, adding to ZeroQs’ value.

The co-founders boast about very positive feedback from customers, which strengthens their original assumptions about the product’s functionality. The implementations in the Polish market allowed for extensively testing and finetuning the technology, preparing the startup for international expansion. According to Mr Kaczmarczyk, this is ZeroQs’ top priority and will happen in the near future. Simultaneously, the startup is preparing the technology for equipping and creating the mentioned autonomous stores.


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