Smart shopping carts are changing the future of brick and mortar supermarkets

Smart shopping carts are changing the future of brick and mortar supermarkets

Eduardo Sanchez-Iriarte, Director Of Operations, Caper Labs


It’s offline grocery shopping; you want to go in, shop fast, save money and have a good time.

However, the only thing standing between you and your dinner is a 30-minute line. Both owners and customers agree it’s not a pleasant experience; the former is losing money, the latter is wasting time. This is where shopping cart and A.I. converges. Although that may sound like the movie I, Robot in a grocery store, smart shopping carts are already changing the future of brick and mortar supermarkets. (Be at ease, there is no risk that an army of brainy carts are going to rise against humanity.)

According to an article published by Chain Store Age last summer, “almost all Americans say someone in their family shops for groceries in person at least once a month, with 83% going at least once a week.” That’s a big number of shoppers to catch. And store owners know the toughest win is not the first visit as much as their loyalty. “I love this store. It offers great variety of products and an amazing shopping experience” is the kind of comment I hear people say when they visit a supermarket that cares about shopper experience. Friction at the last touchpoint – long wait at the cashier – defeats that perfect experience.

What happens, then, when a store is equipped with Caper Carts? A regular shopper - Jamie - is running late to prepare a pecan pie for a dinner party, but she’s right on time to hit rush hour in the closest supermarket. Let’s follow along with her:

  1. Upon arrival, aware of the long lines waiting for her in every cashier lane, she takes a Caper Cart knowing it’s a self-checkout cart that will make her experience faster. Jamie starts shopping using Caper.

  2. Jamie wants to buy pecans. There’s a green button on the Caper cart screen: Add Produce. She taps it, types pecans’ PLU and tosses the bag of pecans into the Caper cart. Pecan is priced by weight, and (thankfully) the entire Caper cart is a scale! Jamie can directly weigh the item by tossing the pecans into the cart, and click “Add to Cart”. Easy! Time to go to dairy.

  3. As she walks around the store heading to the dairy section, Nearby Deals and promotions are popping on the screen making it easier for her to discover Domino Sugar has a 33% discount. Jamie scans the Domino Sugar’s barcode, and puts it into her cart. The item is registered into the list.

  4. Now she’s looking for crust. Jamie taps Find Product on the screen, types “pie crust”, and finds it in Aisle 4. Good for her - all the staff are busy dealing with the long lines!

  5. As Jamie scans and tosses products in the basket, she’s also bagging; the basket is equipped with bagging rails to make the shopping process easy as scan, bag, go.

  6. She’s done gathering her ingredients. She’s ready to pay: taps Checkout, makes sure all the items are correctly priced in the list and accepts.

  7. Since her information is stored from previous visits, Jamie chooses to send the receipt to her email with one tap on the screen - going paperless!

What would have been a 45-minute trip to the neighborhood store took only 10 minutes. She even walked out with a bigger bag of sugar thanks to the discount she discovered. It’s as easy as it sounds. Moreover, while Jamie was shopping, the smart shopping cart was collecting hundreds of images and information on each purchased product. This data will soon help enable the scanless version where the shoppers can just toss products in the basket (no scanning needed!), pay and go!

On the data side, supermarkets are on the winning team. Collecting information has proven to be not only used for inventory decisions, but also for restructuring product and shelf location, optimizing shopper’s critical path, and upsells. In the grocery industry, it means keeping track of what time they come, what aisles they visit the most, what promotions they like, the average time they stay, what products they buy frequently, and etc. Increasing the basket size is no longer a challenge if grocers can show tailored recommendations to shoppers. Why wouldn’t I buy an extra box of my favorite cereal if I see on the Caper screen that I’ll get $1 off today if I buy two?

The race to catch up with technology is a tough one for brick and mortar supermarkets. Caper can enable all of this experience with a plug-and-play solution. No need to renovate the store or change its operations. Bringing in Caper Carts is the way to take a store’s shopping experience to the next level!

About the Author

Eduardo Sanchez-Iriarte is Director Of Operations for Caper, the fastest growing retail automation technology company, where he leads the team to effective execution and management strategies. On his limited free time, Eduardo likes to share his adventures in entrepreneurship publishing columns for Entrepreneur Magazine. 

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About Caper:

Caper builds intelligent shopping carts - powered by deep learning and computer vision - to detect and identify items (with cameras mounted in the cart) as they are added to the basket. Caper costs less than 1% of Amazon Go's infrastructure, and it is a plug-and-play integration for stores. Caper is the fastest growing retail automation technology company, with already launched pilots and a rapidly expanding customer base. E-commerce is only 8% of total retail, and Caper is innovating the other 92% of the untapped potential.