'It's about being cool': Sobeys tests smart grocery carts

Sobeys is testing out a so-called Smart Cart at one of its locations in Oakville, Ont. (Sobeys)
Sobeys is testing out a so-called Smart Cart at one of its locations in Oakville, Ont. (Sobeys)

Sobeys is testing out a new technologically-enhanced grocery cart it says will speed up the checkout process.

The Nova Scotia-based grocer announced Wednesday that it is launching a pilot project at its Glen Abbey store in Oakville, Ont. that will allow customers to try out one of ten new “Smart Carts” while shopping.

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Developed by Caper, a retail technology startup based in New York City, the grocery cart features technology similar to what you would see in the self-checkout lane. An interactive screen displays your list of purchases and in-store promotions, and a scanner and scale allows customers to add and weigh items as they shop. Once customers are done shopping, they can pay for their items at the machine attached to the cart, avoiding checkout lines that Sobeys says are the “greatest point of customer friction.”

“With the Smart Cart, you’re not waiting in line anymore and, more importantly, you can bag as you go in the store so that in the end you just need to pay and go,” said Mathieu Lacoursiere, vice president of retail support at Sobeys, in an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada.

“It’s really about being innovative, it’s about being cool, it’s about working on the customer experience and making it seamless.”

The carts also features machine learning technology, several cameras along with the scale which helps identify each item when it is placed inside. The hope is that the technology will evolve from requiring customers to scan individual items to one day recognizing items as they are tossed in the cart.

Sobeys, which is owned by Empire Co., says the Smart Cart is the first intelligent cart launching at a Canadian grocery store. While Lacoursiere doesn’t expect the grocery chain to shift to using only Smart Carts anytime soon, he sees potential for additional uses of it in the future.

“Down the road, we want to really interact with our customers with that screen attached to the cart,” he said.

“We want to be able to do some way-finding with the cart, we want our customer to be able to just download their grocery list directly into the cart with their experience. It’s much more than just a way to self-checkout.”

Sobeys started training its employees on how to use the Smart Cart this week and plans on opening it up to customer use in three weeks. It will evaluate customer feedback before making a decision on whether the expand the pilot project to other locations.

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