Is the hyperconnected shopping cart ready for prime time?

Check out this smart cart technology for your neighborhood grocery store.

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Don’t get discouraged by the date (July 2004) and do watch the video- it works for me if it helps me find what I need faster. But read on. There’s a lesson here.

These smart carts are basically equipped with an IBM PC equipped with touch sensitive screens, WiFi, RFID and a scanner. The shopper can identify themselves, manage shopping lists, be directed to favorite products, and check out in real-time as they load up his/her cart.

In 2004, Stop and Shop announced that they would roll out these smart cards (they call them ‘shopping buddies’) in some 170 stores by the end of 2005. But if you check the store web site today, you’ll find that only some 20 stores are listed.

What might have gone wrong? I can only guess that maybe the business case wasn’t there (retail is a thin margin business), consumers didn’t see enough value, and real-time check out was replaced by more secure self-check out on exit.

Jump ahead to the present. MediaCart and Microsoft just rolled out the next generation of smart carts, with plans for a pilot in ShopRite stores. What’s the big difference? There appears to be a much heavier focus on advertising as a source of revenue- basically to get the shopper to buy more.

Lesson learnt: With Hyperconnectivity, everything that can benefit from being connected will be connected. In retail, that means shopping carts will only be connected when they either save money or make money.

Are you seeing any of these technologies in your neck of the woods?

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