With the news last week that grocery giant, Kroger is using Caper’s technology, smart shopping carts are now officially a thing to watch out for.
Winsight Grocery Business broke the news last week that Kroger has quietly started testing its new “KroGo Powered by Caper” smart shopping carts at a store in Kroger’s hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. The high-tech shopping carts feature a touchscreen, barcode scanner and scale that allow for a more automated checkout process.
Shoppers scan the barcode of items they place inside the cart, which automatically keeps track of everything being purchased (there are safeguards in place is a user tries to put something in without scanning it). Produce and other fresh items are weighed on the built-in scale on the cart. If an item is removed, the user manually deletes it from the running list on the touchscreen. KroGo users have a separate checkout station that communicates with the cart to automatically tally up the total bill shoppers pay.
Interest in this type of automated checkout has accelerated thanks to COVID-19 pandemic. Automated checkout removes the cashier from the grocery shopping experience, eliminating a vector of human-to-human interaction. This is particularly important when it comes to keeping the spread of germs in check, given how many different people a cashier interacts with on a daily basis.
But Caper Co-Founder and CEO, Lindon Gao, told me by phone this week that his company’s smart cart technology got a boost from another source: his competition. “Amazon Dash has really brought this concept more to the market,” Gao said, speaking of Amazon’s own smart cart tech, “It has validated what we have done all along.”
In addition to adapting to new pandemic realities and the shot of validation from Amazon, the retailers Caper are working with also want to enhance the shopper’s experience. And according to Gao, Caper’s built-in touchscreen on the cart does just that.
“The screen is the holy grail,” Gao said. That’s because shoppers don’t need to download an app in order to use the automated checkout. Everything is there on the cart. Additionally, Gao said that people most people don’t shop while looking at their phones, but the on-cart screen travels with them up and down the aisles.
The screen also provides new advertising and promotional real estate for the retailer. A store can advertise specials, upsell companion items (frozen pizza + ice cream!), and push out possible recipes based on what’s in the cart.
Moving automated checkout to the cart can also mean faster adoption by retailers. Other cashierless checkout solutions like those from Grabango and Zippin require stores to be retrofitted with cameras and sensors. That can take time and be costly, especially for larger stores. A retailer adopting smart carts just needs to deploy new carts and don’t require shoppers to download an app to make the automated checkout work.
As such, there are actually quite a few players in the smart cart space. In addition to Caper, Veeve, Storewide Active Intelligence, Tracxpoint, and Imagr, all have various takes on the technology coming to market.
Given all this activity, smart shopping carts are definitely a thing we’ll be watching out for this year.