9 Ways Supermarkets Are Going High Tech
There are several companies, such as FreshDirect and Tesco, that are reinventing the grocery shopping experience in an effort to make procuring food a convenience, as opposed to a time-sucking errand. But even though most would agree they don’t care for the weekly trip to the grocery store, 98% of groceries are still bought that way.
This may be why companies are using new technology to make the shopping experience better at traditional supermarkets. Here’s a look at some of the creative ways they’re doing this.
1. Locating Products
Aisle411 empowers anyone with a mobile phone to find products within retail stores. Easily find the in-store aisle location of a single item or route your entire shopping list on a mobile map of your store. Aisle 411 works in hundreds of stores around the country. The best part: No more aimless searching.
2. Grabbing a Cup of Coffee
Coinstar — makers of the ubiquitous green vending machines that convert your change into cash or giftcards — just announced a new partnership with Seattle’s Best Coffee, to roll out new Rubi coffee kiosks. Five hundred machines will be introduced this year with thousands more coming. According to Coinstar, “The new Rubi kiosk provides a unique offering by grinding and brewing fresh whole beans in a single cup process on demand and around the clock. The Rubi kiosk serves brewed coffee and specialty drinks including mochas and vanilla lattes with price points starting at $1.00.”
3. Self-Serve Scanning
Earlier this year, Catalina Marketing bought Boston-based startup Modiv Media. Modiv’s hand-held in-store scanners as well as its mobile app enable shoppers to scan bar codes and let customers ring up purchases as they stroll through supermarket aisles. That means there’s no wait for a cashier to check a customer out at the end. The company’s Scan It! Mobile app is free on iPhone and Android and can be used at Stop & Shop stores.
4. Management Alerts When More Registers Are Needed
Supermarket chain Kroger has introduced a system called QueVision which counts the number of people entering and leaving the store using heat-sensitive infrared sensors. According to Supermarket News, “The system also features infrared sensors above the checkout lanes that can detect the number of units of shoppers — a unit could include a mom and two kids — in line, and their average wait time.” Managers are then alerted to how many registers should be open in fifteen minutes and thirty minutes in order to reduce customer wait time.
5. Supermarket Mobile Apps
Many chains have introduced their own mobile apps with several useful shopping features. The Wegmans mobile app, for example, lets you scan a barcode on a product and automatically add it to your shopping list. It also features recipes and the ability to add the ingredients directly to your list. Weis Markets mobile app lets you view the weekly circular, and create and email a list to someone else. The Android version lets shoppers use their voice to add items to the list. With the new Harris Teeter mobile app, an enhanced store locator adds GPS technology and driving directions. Shoppers can also view their shopping lists offline and integrate them with their desktop shopping list. The application even provides text message notification and the ability to pre-order subs and sliced meats and cheeses in select stores.
6. Kid-Friendly Carts
Ever get exasperated trying to entertain the kids while grocery shopping? Last year Denver area supermarket chain King Soopers introduced video-equipped car-shaped carts. There’s a screen inside each kid car that plays videos like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and another screen that plays 30-second commercials about the store’s products for the parents.
7. Fuel Rewards
Many supermarkets across the country now reward shoppers with discounts on gas based on how much they spend at the grocery store. For example, Stop & Shop rewards $0.10 per gallon savings at Shell for every $100 spent. Some chains have introduced specials to lower gas prices even further. In April, for example, Spartan Stores ran a two-day deal offering .50 cents off a gallon, up to 20 gallons, for every $100 spent in its stores. Usually a shopper would have to spend $500 to earn these savings.
The new Fuel Rewards Network from Excentus rewards users with fuel savings at participating Shell stations across the country when they buy groceries at more than a thousand stores, including Winn-Dixie, Jewel-Osco, and BI-LO. Additional fuel savings are available on Fuel Rewards Network when you buy specific items at the grocery store.
8. Scanning Without Barcodes
Toshiba has created a new scanner that recognizes any item in the store, meaning barcodes are not necessary. The object recognition system uses pattern and color recognition to identity the product, including fruits and vegetables, and variations of fruit like red delicious apples.
9. Automatic Checkout
Australian grocery chain Coles is working with IBM to install radio tags on grocery items that could be read as you leave the shop, with the bill paid via smartphone from your credit card. Now that would really cut down on checkout time!
What other innovations would you like to see at the supermarket?
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