Retail Pulse: Sobeys Tests Intelligent Shopping Cart; Amazon Expands Counter Service

Sobeys Tests Intelligent Shopping Carts

Brick-and-mortar retailers are testing intelligent shopping carts that are billed as a way to improve the in-store experience. Canadian food retailer Sobeys, for instance, is bringing the technology to grocery stores with the rollout of the Sobeys Smart Cart, which will offer shoppers a “highly engaging, fun and fast way to shop,” per an announcement.

The pilot is taking place at the grocer's Glen Abbey location in Ontario, Canada. The Sobeys Smart Cart seeks to solve the pain point of in-store checkout lineups. Its technology weighs and scans items as shoppers put them in their carts, shows a running tally of purchases and lets customers pay on the spot.

The cart is equipped with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Going beyond fast checkout, it will eventually make product suggestions, highlight promotions and help shoppers navigate stores. According to the announcement, the test is "part of Sobeys' customer-focused innovation approach to learn and continuously improve through customer feedback."

Mathieu Lacoursiere, vice president of retail support at Sobeys Inc., said, "While products and customer eating habits have evolved, the in-store grocery shopping experience has remained relatively static for the last 100 years. This is a unique way for us to test innovative new technologies aimed at enhancing the customer shopping experience and learn how best to make it faster and easier.”

The cart will also expand from “scanning” merchandise to “identifying” it. Currently, the device offers multiple high-resolution cameras that capture 120 images each second as the merchandise enters the cart, so it can learn how to identify each grocery product. With its sensitive weight measures, shoppers will one day be able to toss their items in the cart without the need to scan barcodes or input any information.

Beyond Sobeys, multiple companies have been inspired to offer new methods for shoppers to grab items from stores and avoid the checkout line. Startups like Zippin and Standard Cognition are tapping into technology that is reportedly similar to that of Amazon Go, with cameras powered by machine learning software and computer vision. Other innovators are aiming to reinvent the shopping cart with advanced technology with the goal of improving the commerce and payments experience at the grocery store.

In Other Brick-and-Mortar News

Amazon unveiled the expansion of a network of staffed pickup points, called Counter, where customers can retrieve packages in-store at partner locations. Shoppers can now access thousands of additional Amazon Hub Counter locations at the eCommerce retailer’s new store partners: GNC, Health Mart and Stage Stores. Delivery to a Counter location is available for “the tens of millions of items sold on,” per an announcement from the company.

Amazon Hub Worldwide Director Patrick Supanc said in the announcement, “The response we’ve heard from our customers and partners after the launch of Counter earlier this year has been tremendous. This new network of pickup points gives customers a pickup experience that is fast, flexible and convenient, and partners are thrilled with the strong engagement and additional foot traffic Counter is driving for their stores.”

In other news, Uber Eats has entered into a partnership with Costcutter, marking the delivery app’s first foray into the U.K. convenience sector. Retailers within the symbol group operate with the Costcutter, Supershop, Kwiksave, Mace and Simply Fresh banners. CSG retailers can sign up for the platform, with multiple regional roadshows to take place.

Items from sweet treats to alcoholic drinks can be delivered via the app. Costcutter Marketing Director Sean Russell said, per reports, “With 28 percent of food and groceries now purchased online in the U.K., our partnership with Uber Eats is a great way to reach new customers and demonstrates our continued commitment to helping our independent retailers thrive.”

On another note, Walmart is starting its holiday shopping season early, noting fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The company is advertising deals for the season beginning on Friday (Oct. 25). Walmart said it would debut new deals regularly as the season goes on, and it is also providing free next-day delivery for the first time.

To keep tabs on the latest retail trends, check next week’s Retail Pulse.



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