Retail business owners, it’s no secret that consumers are long searching for a way to make their shopping experiences frictionless, pleasant, and efficient. And when it comes to the grocery store, and other stores of the like, this more than applies, especially when you consider how technology has been changing the way consumers shop, from online shopping to frictionless payments.
Fortunately, with the introduction of smart shopping carts, it seems technology is finally catching up with consumer demands.
But what exactly is smart shopping cart technology?
Simply put, it is a weighing scale built into shopping carts to ease the shopping experience.
While this type of technology isn’t universal just yet, it could only be a matter of time until smart shopping cart technology is in every grocery store and other retail settings everywhere. Let’s take a closer look at this growing trend and how smart shopping cart technology is contributing to a better shopping experience for everyone.
Shoppers have always preferred the checkout process to be as streamlined as possible. Nobody likes standing in long lines, especially when they have frozen goods or other perishable items in their cart that need to be put away as quickly as possible.
Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic made streamlined checkout more than a luxury. Retail businesses, especially grocers, needed to make the checkout experience faster and more autonomous, cutting down on face-to-face interactions between customers and employees while also reducing the time customers wait in line and errors.
Smart cart weighing scales are helping to address all of these needs and desires from consumers, changing the way people shop for the better.
Smart carts have become possible thanks to technology that’s often called computer vision AI. This type of artificial intelligence uses both a weighted scale and recognition technology to detect when any item is added to a shopping cart regardless of the angle at which placed in the cart. The technology can also accurately identify when multiple items are placed in the cart at the same time and when items are removed. In other words, smart carts know everything that a consumer is putting into or taking out of their cart. It doesn’t matter if it’s a packaged item or a piece of fresh produce. The scale and recognition technology can detect everything rapidly, accurately, and efficiently.
With the weight and recognition technology working together, some smart carts are capable of adding up the cost of every item in the shopping cart. Naturally, with these carts, shoppers are also able to pay for their items using smart shopping cart technology without needing to visit a checkout line or unload everything from their cart at a self-service checkout.
This technology is even capable of making suggestions to shoppers based on the items in their carts. After all, there are always shopping patterns with specific items used in conjunction with other products.
Clip It On
Smart cart technology is available in multiple forms. In some instances, there will be specifically designed carts that have scales built in and come with the necessary hardware.
However, a more flexible approach is the plug-and-play configuration. In this form, grocery stores are able to clip the scale and product recognition attachment to the cart, giving shoppers the option of using this technology or doing things the old-fashioned way.
This approach ensures the solution can be mounted on all common shopping cart designs and can be retrofitted to existing carts. Therefore, grocery stores don't need to spend extra money purchasing new suitable carts.
Improving Self Checkout
To their credit, grocery stores have done a good job of increasing the self-checkout options available for customers. However, there are still plenty of flaws that need to be worked out in this area. Most of the time, there is still an employee attending to the self-checkout area. In certain situations, they are even asked to intervene or assist a customer with the self-checkout process, which means the process doesn’t flow as naturally as it could, taking away some of the benefits of self-checkout.
However, smart shopping cart technology takes self-checkout a step further, reducing some of the lagging bottlenecks. For starters, the smart carts recognize everything going into the cart, which means consumers don’t have to go through the process of scanning everything again at the self-checkout station. Thereby, saving consumer time, and allowing retailers to reduce losses and self-checkout errors.
Of course, customers won’t completely be on their own with smart shopping cart technology. In most cases, the technology also comes with a “help” button that can send an alert to employees that a customer is in need of assistance or has a question. Employees will know the location of the customer and the cart wherever the “help” button is pressed, making it easy to locate them within the store and solve the problem as quickly as possible.
Making Stores More Efficient
Again, shoppers won’t be the only ones benefiting from smart shopping cart technology. Stores will reap plenty of benefits from the technology, including collecting data on how to be more efficient. For instance, the technology is tracking every item that’s being placed in shopping carts, making it easier to track inventory and keep items in stock. This is something that has become more of a challenge given the recent issues with the supply chain, so using smart technology to alleviate this concern is a great benefit for stores.
By gathering data on every item that’s placed in a shopping cart, stores can also learn how to improve the layout of the store, organizing products in a way that makes more sense. This will help streamline the process for consumers and also help stores attract more business by offering a better customer experience. On top of that, with the reduced need for checkout counters that will come with smart shopping cart technology, stores can use space more efficiently and perhaps increase the number of items they carry, which will also help consumers in the long run.
Working Out the Kinks
Despite all of the benefits that smart shopping cart technology offers, like many advancements in technology, it doesn’t come without its kinks. For starters, employees typically bring personal items with them to place in their shopping carts. These items will impact the scale and the camera recognizing everything that’s placed inside the cart. Customers also need to bring reusable bags or receive bags from the store for transporting their goods home, which adds another step to an otherwise streamlined process.
Of course, paying with cash is out of the question when using smart carts - but with the move toward cashless payments, this kink will iron itself out shortly.
It’s also been a challenge for businesses using smart carts to integrate the purchase of alcohol, prescription drugs from the store’s pharmacy, and gift cards into the system.
However, minor flaws and kinks aside, smart shopping cart technology appears to be the way of the future, especially in grocery stores. In the aftermath of the pandemic, there is more of a need for this type of technology and shopping experience than ever before. With a host of benefits for both consumers and stores, there is almost nothing that can stop smart carts from becoming more prevalent in the future and continuing to change the way we shop.
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