Wegmans is not done with pay-as-you-go self-service yet; now, the retailer is testing smart carts.
The Rochester, N.Y.-based regional supermarket chain, which includes 110 East Coast locations, is testing out smart carts at two New York State locations, the retailer confirmed to PYMNTS via email.
“We are doing a Test & Learn Pilot with Smart Shopping Carts in two stores. It is an early stage technology and we’re in the preliminary stage of our pilot,” a Wegmans spokesperson said in a statement. “As such, we recently selected customers to test the new technology as we take an iterative approach and focus on gathering feedback from a small group of customers.”
According to The Buffalo News, the system is from tech provider Shopic, which retrofits existing shopping carts with computer vision. The cameras identify products added and removed as consumers move through the store, enabling consumers to pay from their cart at the end without waiting in line.
The cautious approach that Wegmans is taking to this technology, only trying it out in two stores with select customers, makes sense, given that, when it comes to self-checkout, the retailer has been burned before. In the fall, the chain announced it was shutting down its SCAN scan-and-go checkout app, citing “losses.”
Of course, if the cart’s computer vision technology automatically scans items placed in carts, it may be more difficult for shoppers to walk out of the store with items they have not paid for.
Across the grocery industry, smart carts have been slowly catching on. Major grocery technology company Instacart, for instance, has its Caper Cart by subsidiary Caper AI, acquired in 2021, in use in chains including Kroger, Wakefern, Sobeys in Canada and an assortment of smaller retailers. Albertsons, for its part, has been running a test in partnership with smart shopping cart creator Veeve. Back in 2020, Amazon announced the launch of its Dash Cart smart cart, which it updated last summer.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Raz Golan, CEO and co-founder of Shopic, discussed how these technologies can help grocers meet consumers’ new expectations for their in-store shopping journeys, which have been changed by the rise of eCommerce.
“Shoppers are happier when they have a better experience in the store,” Golan said. “They buy more, they go back to the store more, and when they wish to, they can pay and go in a matter of a few seconds. This is the general trend, and shoppers are demanding this, when they compare the experience of online to these offline physical stores.”
The news of Wegmans’ smart carts test comes as grocers increasingly look to improve the in-store experience with digital convenience in an effort to hold their own against competition from eCommerce.
Research from PYMNTS’ new study “Changes in Grocery Shopping Habits and Perception,” which drew from a December survey of more than 2,400 U.S. consumers, found that brick-and-mortar grocery shopping is still significantly more popular than eCommerce, but the latter is growing fast. Fifty-four percent of grocery customers shop in stores all the time, while only 7% shop digitally every time. However, that eCommerce-only share has increased 36-fold since before the pandemic.