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Smart Shopping Carts: Self-Checkout on the Go

smart shopping cart

Grocery shopping is one of life’s necessary evils. Who hasn’t circled a store several times trying to locate that one ingredient—or find an employee who can direct you to it? And then there are the long checkout lines. Self-serve kiosks speed things up a bit, but they can be glitchy, not recognizing the item you’ve already put into the bag.

And overall traditional systems are not hugely efficient. Shoppers need to put goods from the cart onto the self-checkout counter, from there on a scale, and then back into the cart again before leaving the store.

Fortunately, all those frustrations may soon be a thing of the past. Innovative technologies can provide the ultimate in self-checkout with smart carts that let customers shop, scan, and go.

“There’s high demand for non-human interaction compared to the traditional way of shopping, putting everything on the belt, and having a chat with the cashier,” says Bernard van Strien, marketing and communications manager for faytech AG, a leader in touchscreen solutions. “While some people will still prefer this method, the grocery store is slowly becoming more modern, and technology can make the experience better for customers and stores.”

The Smart Shopping Cart Experience

Smart retail carts like the EASY Shopper, created through a partnership between faytech AG and Pentland Firth Software GmbH, deliver a unique, streamlined experience. Before entering the store, customers have the option to make a shopping list with the solution app. Once inside, they activate their cart by scanning their smartphone QR code.

If the customer made a list, it would appear on a touchscreen on the cart. The screen will also display a map of the store to help customers find the items they want and give shoppers the shortest route for gathering their items. It also shares personalized promotions or special offers.

As shoppers move through the store, they scan their groceries using the barcode scanner and put them into the cart, starting the checkout process cashier-free. When they’re ready to leave, the shopper scans their QR customer code again at a cashier station, where the transaction is verified and completed. The shopper can pay directly within the app using preloaded banking information, or they can provide a credit or debit card or cash.

#SmartCarts not only improve the #CustomerExperience; they enable stores to gather insights. @FayTechUSA via @insightdottech

This easy process not only speeds things up for the customer, but also gives more time for the cashiers, who can perform other tasks within the store (Video 1).

Video 1. Smart shopping carts provide navigation, cost-saving promotions, and checkout rolled into one. (Source: faytech AG)

New Opportunities with Retail Analytics

Smart carts not only improve the customer experience; they enable stores to gather insights. When the shopper scans their QR code to login, the system’s analytics starts collecting information about the purchasing behavior of the customer. For example, it tracks the length of the shopping session, what is put in the cart, and what is put back.

Insights drive marketing opportunities. Targeted ads are displayed on the cart’s screen as the customer navigates the store, suggesting items that complement what they have in their carts and offering targeted offers. This capability opens the door for new forms of revenue.

“Stores can offer contracts to brands,” says Bernard. “For example, they can create popup messages for customers who walk down certain aisles. This creates new revenue opportunities for the retailer.”

­­The technology also helps reduce theft. The cart can include a video camera and a scale. Every product has its own weight in the system, and the cart can tell if there is a discrepancy. At the checkout, the cashier will be notified if something is off, and they can check to see if something wasn’t scanned.

Retailer Rolls Out Innovations

Edeka, one of the largest supermarket chains in Germany, uses the solution in about 60 of its stores, with plans to expand to 40 more by the end of 2021, says Bernard.

“Their goal in rolling out EASY Shopper was to step away from the traditional way of shopping and provide a more modern, innovative solution,” he says. The technology solves many of their challenges, such as finding creative ways to upsell or cross-sell products and speed up the checkout process, which had been slow.

Cart-to-Cloud Retail Tech

EASY Shopper runs on an Intel® processor-based PC and connects to a private server through Microsoft Azure cloud. The cart integrates directly to a store’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, which provides real-time updates for pricing and inventory.

If the cart loses its wireless connection, the shopping and payment process can continue, says Bernard. The components are ruggedized and can be taken outside if it’s raining or withstand bumps or shocks in a parking lot. Additionally, the GPS function allows the retailer to constantly track the location of the cart, which in turn prevents theft, also in the parking lot.

And the technology itself is completely customizable. In the end, it’s the flexibility to meet the shopper where they are in terms of the experience that they’re looking for. By removing the frustrations and challenges of the store experience, grocers and shoppers can both benefit.

“It’s really what your imagination might lead you to,” says Bernard. “The platform is designed so that if you’ve got a great idea, you’ve got the right software, the right skills, you can create an integrated solution, for your particular use case in the retail space.”


About the Author

Stephanie Vozza is a business writer who specializes in retail, technology, and finance. In 2006, she launched her own eCommerce brand and sold it five years later to FranklinCovey Products. Stephanie has written for companies that include Intel, Epson, Oracle, Smartsheet, Wells Fargo, First Citizens Bank, and Mastercard. She's a regular contributor to Fast Company where she covers leadership, careers, and technology. Stephanie's byline has also appeared in Forbes, Inc., Parade, Entrepreneur, and SUCCESS magazines.

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