Hi-tech trolley set to change shopping experience
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Hi-tech trolley set to change shopping experience

The World Today | July 20, 2005
By Brendan Trembath

ELEANOR HALL: Australian supermarket shoppers will soon get to road test a high tech version of the much-maligned shopping trolley. The new model has a display screen, which allows shoppers to scan items as they shop, reducing the time they need to spend at the check out counter.

And a selling point for retailers is that the trolley can advertise specials in each aisle and can even remind regular customers what they might have forgotten. So, is it a time saver or big brother on wheels?

Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH:

(Sound of electronic scanner)

The new trolley gets a test drive at a retailing trade show in Sydney. Shoppers scan their own items by simply putting them in the trolley.

(Sound of electronic scanner)

A display screen shows the purchase price and keeps a running tally.

Vernon Slack from Fujitsu says the hi tech trolley will help save shoppers time and give them more information as they shop.

VERNON SLACK: This was designed to be a tool to help consumers get through the store quicker and more efficiently and also to provide them with information along the way as they're shopping.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Supermarket operators might not like the running total, giving shoppers time to rethink their purchasing, but the trolley will encourage spending in other ways.

This is no passive device – it does more than simply add up what's in the basket. Here's where privacy issues emerge: the trolley can make suggestions based on previous visits to the supermarket.

Vernon Slack from Fujitsu explains.

VERNON SLACK: It can actually bring up previous shopping histories and so it can remind you that, you know, you bought eggs the last trip, maybe you need eggs again. And so that's useful in that way.

The other way it's useful is that if I have your shopping habits and I know in a category, for instance, that you're a loyal customer of Coca Cola, let's say, then basically, when I advertise Coca Cola to you the discount's going to be different than if I know that you're a… somebody that's price sensitive.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: How cautious are you about personal privacy concerns? You're buying a lot of items – some people might not want their weekly shopping to be known in such detail.

VERNON SLACK: Well, and the neat thing about our solution is, because it's always mounted on the cart, you don't have to be loyal customer to use the trip… to use the solution. You don't have to scan your loyalty card.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: So if you don't scan your card that's under the radar as such, that trip?

VERNON SLACK: It's under the radar, but it's something that… but it's still allowable.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: It's worth knowing, though, that shoppers are being watched. Steve Ogden-Barnes from the Australian Centre for Retail Studies at Monash University says retailers have already studied which course shoppers tend to take when they navigate the aisles of a supermarket. It's worth money for retailers to know this.

STEVE OGDEN-BARNES: They don't sort of go up and down every aisle as you may think they might, or in fact the supermarkets may think they might. They tend, once they enter an aisle, not to get all the way through, but dive in and out and they tend to use the outside of the race track pretty much as a way to drop in and drop out of aisles as they go along.

It seems to be a preference as well, for people as well to shop counter-clockwise rather than clockwise. And it was also noted as well that they actually speed up as they get towards the checkouts, so as they're keeping an eye on the clock and keeping an eye on the time they'll actually start to increase their rate of progress through the store, actually accelerating as they get towards the checkouts.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Sounds like people are a bit like racehorses.

STEVE OGDEN-BARNES: Seems to be that way, yes, and in many cases they perhaps behave in a ways which I think a lot of supermarkets would find surprising as well.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: How might it help retailers if they know this information that people are quite erratic in how they use the aisles?

STEVE OGDEN-BARNES: Well it might sort of, enable them to consider how the stores are laid out, how people use the aisles and where products are placed along them. For example, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of point in putting premium product in the centre of an aisle where fewer people make it towards.

The new trolley still may not steer straight, it has the same wheels as the traditional model, but it's certainly more entertaining, especially for children who'll have something new to play with as they sit in the basket.

ELEANOR HALL: Oh dear. That's Brendan Trembath reporting.


 

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