Smart Carts Make Shopping Easier and More Efficient

Grocery carts use artificial intelligence and machine learning to track items and tabulate customer purchases on the fly, eliminating the need for shoppers to stand in the checkout line. Data collected also provides retailers with information about consumer behavior, product placement, and inventory.


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Image credit: Faytech

The pandemic pushed online shopping into overdrive, and now retailers are looking for ways to bring that experience into brick-and-mortar stores. Aiming to make in-person shopping easier and hassle-free, some grocery stores are testing smart carts that meld ecommerce and in-person shopping.

The Easy Shopper® Intelligent Cart, designed by MetroClick and faytech, is already deployed in European grocery stores and is breaking into the North American market. The cart is outfitted with artificial intelligence (AI), a scale, cameras, and sensors, plus an arm that holds a barcode scanner and a camera above the basket. The Easy Shopper is powered by the Intel® Pentium® Processor N4200 QuadCore CPU and the Intel® HD Graphics chipset.

The Easy Shopper cart has integrated WiFi, cellular, and GPS capabilities that enable communication with the main hub and cart tracking inside and outside the store. The system connects to a phone app, so customers can sync grocery lists or scan items for additional information.

Customers shop as they would normally, placing items in the cart as they move through the store. They can even bag their items as they go. A touchscreen with embedded inter-process communication (IPC) sits on the front of the buggy. It tallies all purchases, presents an interactive map of the store, and provides custom display options, personalized promotions, and tailored messaging. The payment is handled electronically, so customers don’t need to queue up or pay a cashier.

Autonomous Shopping is Fast and Friction-free

While AmazonGo stores also allow customers to shop and go with automated payment and no checkout lines, the technology is integrated throughout the store making it cumbersome for retailers to retrofit. The Amazon Dash smart cart is an acknowledgement of that. Smart carts are an easy path to supermarket automation, along with self-checkout stations. New York City-based Caper, which developed smart carts after talking with grocery store owners in Manhattan, claims that the cost of its cart is on par with self-checkout stations.

Caper built the KroGo smart cart, currently being tested in Kroger grocery stores in Cincinnati, OH. It uses AI, machine learning, cameras, sensor fusion, and a scale to enable shoppers to collect, bag, and pay for groceries autonomously. Users can enter their loyalty card, then scan items as they place them in the cart. The company is developing a scanless option for the future. Fresh produce is weighed on the integrated scale before being placed in the cart. A screen on the cart displays the running total of items, suggests related items, and notifies users of in-store sales and promotions. Shoppers pay at the cart, eliminating the need to stand in line or checkout with a cashier.

The company’s Caper Counter is an autonomous checkout option for smaller retailers, such as convenience stores. The square unit sits on a counter and uses AI to identify products, providing customers with a contact-free checkout. It can even identify non-SKU items, such as a cup of coffee or bagel.

Image credit: Caper

Analytics Boost Retail Benefits

Smart carts can drive profits. These systems can navigate customers to specific products and suggest products based on past or current selections. Customers can be offered discounts to build brand awareness or loyalty. The carts also protect against retail theft: deep learning coupled with the integrated cameras and scale ensure products are tabulated on the bill. One European retailer that has been using the Easy Shopper carts for more than three years realized an 11.6 percent increase in customer revenue and a 60 percent drop in theft.

In addition to the consumer benefits, retailers get a host of information about shopper behavior and store information. Smart carts can track the path of the consumer, note where they stop and for how long. They can even notify store managers when inventory is low. The analytics can alter how stores present and display items to drive up profits.

In today’s era of socially distant, contact-free interactions, smart carts seem like a smart idea.


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