The proverb “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” refers to the idea that the most noticeable problems are the ones most likely to receive attention. However, this isn’t the case with the bulky shopping carts we’re all familiar with. If it were, their squeaky wheels and rusted metal
would have been addressed by now, and the carts would incorporate modern technology to meet the demands of today’s digital world.
Introduced in 1937, shopping cart creator Sylvan Goldman sought a solution to increase revenue through larger basket sizes, as the small baskets consumers carried on their arm quickly filled up and got heavy. And it worked. It was so important to revolutionizing in-store behavior that aisles became wider and checkout lanes longer to accommodate it. But in the more than 90 years since, the shopping cart has only received a few tweaks and upgrades, including drink holders, baby seats and plastic handles.
So, why does an invention that changed the way consumers shop – and is now ubiquitous with retail - lack the history of innovation we’ve seen impact nearly every other touchpoint in recent years? Here at Tracxpoint, we think it’s time for an upgrade. By leveraging modern technology, we’re creating a new paradigm for in-store engagement and convenience. Below, we’ll describe how our Artificial Intelligence Carts (AiC) solve four main challenges brick and mortar retailers are facing.
Crippling Checkout Experiences
The long lines brought about from traditional checkout processes and large basket sizes have led to innovation across the grocery industry – from online ordering with curbside pickup to home delivery to self-checkout concepts like Amazon Go that not only require $1 million in hardware per store to install, but additional square footage to accommodate it. The infrastructure, logistics and personnel challenges associated with these innovations put them out of reach for many retailers and are simply unpalatable for others.
But eliminating the painful checkout line is a new mandate for an improved customer experience and should be attainable by any retailer. So instead of hefty infrastructure investments, why not leverage the shopping cart? For example, the AiC is equipped with cameras to identify every item added or removed from a basket. Paired with a built-in scale, the cart has the ability to differentiate similar products and accurately update a shopper’s list before they even check out, even as they return items to the shelf. When it’s time to check out, a shopper simply has to walk to the dedicated payment zone where the on-cart payment feature charges the customer’s card.
Absence of real-time data
The bigger problem retailers face isn’t finding ways to just improve checkout, but to find solutions that simultaneously address other pain points for their business and the shopping experience. One particularly glaring one is access to and ability to leverage real-time data.
Grocers heavily reliant on brick and mortar revenue often hurt from a lack insight into a consumer’s complete shopping journey. This not only limits their ability to understand customer behaviors, but product preferences, which leads to guesswork when it comes to store planning. Just as an ecommerce site provides analytics that lead to regular operational and functional optimization, physical retailers must turn to new methods of data collection to improve their performance.
One primary area for this is the cart terminal, where shoppers check out and return shopping carts. Formalizing a strategy around this forgotten touchpoint provides retailers the opportunity to gather key data on their individual customers. Paired with a robust business intelligence dashboard on the cart, they can now gather big data reports and analysis of their shoppers’ in-store journey, as well as real-time information on current store occupancy. When given the ability to analyze and monitor a shopper’s buying patterns, movement within the store, and point of sale data, retailers can improve their in-store efficiency and operational, promotional and strategic decisions in real time.
Lack of shopper loyalty
This new level of service and insight helps drive customer loyalty, too. Given the many options available today for filling their pantries, grocery store shoppers are not loyal to one store. A recent study from Washington University in St. Louis found that more than half of the households surveyed went to an average of five to seven different stores. Competition for shopper loyalty is at an all-time high, and the retailers who want to earn it must invest in new technology. Every time a shopper checks out or returns their cart to these smart terminals, they can receive loyalty reward points or personalized in-store promotions. Not only does this increase a shopper’s chances of returning to the store, but personalized promotions improve customer engagement, as the offers are for products they’re more likely to buy.
Many retailers still struggle with how to best manage shelf space in order to reduce re-stocking and lost sales from errors. After all, customers can’t buy items if they’re not on the shelf, and grocers must also keep diligent track of expiration dates. Using RFID and handheld scanners to check inventory is still a manual effort, and demand much of an employee’s time. What’s more, inventory information is not presented in real time, so there will always be a delay between consumer demand and shelf supply. Alternatively, the AiC is equipped with a camera that can count products on the shelf for real-time inventory tracking. As consumers travel up and down the aisles, their smart shopping carts will relay information directly to the retailers so they can quickly react to inventory changes.
According the Food Marketing Institute, nearly two million shopping carts are stolen each year, translating into a per-store loss of $8,000 to $10,000 annually. Not to mention that basic metal shopping cart fleets are valuable and expensive to maintain and source – the NRF reports that inventory shrink costs the U.S. retail industry $46.8 billion annually. So, why are retailers complacent in losing hundreds of thousands of dollars when a simple investment can resolve both item and cart theft?
For added security, our carts are equipped with a wheel lock feature that activates in the dedicated payment zone when product theft is detected. And to address cart theft, shoppers have an incentive to return the carts, not only because they’re provided with reward points, but because they registered with their card or app and can be identified by the retailer if they tried to steal it.
The new era for retailers
Retailers, it’s time to bring the tool that every shopper uses into the 21st century. Smart shopping carts can achieve frictionless checkout, drive loyalty and help retailers better interact with customers. What’s better, integrating our platform with current store processes is incredibly straightforward. If you’re a retailer looking to improve in-store engagement and convenience, it’s time to finally address that squeaky wheel. Reach out to us today.