Sobeys has begun testing a “smart” shopping cart from Caper Inc. that keeps track of the groceries customers select and lets them pay without having to go through the checkout.
Launched today, the Caper smart cart is being tested by store associates at the 41,000 square foot Glen Abbey Sobeys supermarket in Oakville, Ontario. New York-based Caper said the partnership with Sobeys makes it the first independent automated payment company to have a live business rollout with a major retailer. The Canadian grocer plans to make the cart available to shoppers in three weeks.
Branded Sobeys Smart Cart, the high-tech unit uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to scan and weigh products as customers place them in the cart. A touchscreen near the cart handle displays a count of selected items, and an attached POS card terminal allows customers to pay for purchases directly at the cart. Shoppers pack their own groceries and once payment is made, they leave the store. Smart Carts are picked up and returned inside the store.
“While products and customer eating habits have evolved, the in-store shopping experience has remained relatively static over the past 100 years,” Mathieu Lacoursière, vice president of retail support at Sobeys, said in a statement. “It’s a unique way for us to test innovative new technologies aimed at improving the shopping experience for customers and learn how to make it faster and easier. The carts will also give our store teammates more time to interact with customers and answer questions about food and new products.”
Sobeys and Caper, based in Mississauga, Ont., noted that the cart’s capabilities will evolve beyond frictionless checkout. For example, the shopping cart screen could eventually guide customers through the aisles of the store to find the products on their shopping list. On-screen alerts will also highlight deals and promotions on nearby items, along with product suggestions for recipes.
Additionally, plans call for the cart to go from “scanning” products to “identifying” them. The companies said the Sobeys smart cart includes multiple high-resolution cameras that capture 120 frames per second as items are placed in the cart, allowing the cart to learn to identify each product. Eventually, customers will be able to toss their items into the smart cart without having to enter information or scan barcodes due to the cart’s sensitive weight measurements.
According to Caper, the Smart Cart can increase shopping carts by up to 18% through customer interaction.
“Sobeys is a sophisticated operator that understands the value of customer experience and is moving quickly to bring customer-centric technologies to stores. Our teams worked hand-in-hand to take this initial deployment from concept to operations. operational in less than six months,” said Ahmed Beshry, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Caper. “Sobeys’ mission aligns with Caper’s customer-centric belief: to make shopping magical. We couldn’t be happier to have them as our partner.”
Citing a PwC Canada study, Sobeys reported that 52% of Canadians believe the in-store shopping experience would be greatly improved if they could navigate the store faster and more easily.
“The best Canadian brands aim to be world-class by anticipating and betting on unique innovations,” says Lacoursière. “We are constantly looking for new ways to evolve the grocery shopping experience. During the Smart Cart pilot, we will communicate with our customers in real time to better understand what inspires them and adds value to their shopping experience throughout the store.”
Sobeys did not provide further details on the timing of the pilot and the rollout of the Smart Cart to other locations. Overall, the Sobeys retail network includes more than 1,500 food stores and pharmacies in all 10 provinces under banners such as Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, Farm Boy and Lawtons Drugs.
Caper said earlier this year it went live with the Smart Cart at New York-based supermarket retailer Foodcellar & Co. and has since seen strong traction from shoppers, a size higher basket average and improved checkout efficiency. Other Caper retail partners being rolled out include C-town, Met Fresh Market, Pioneer Supermarkets, Gala Fresh Farms and Brooklyn Fare.
A plug-and-play solution, the Smart Cart allows retailers to scale and deploy automated payment with minimal disruption, according to Caper. “The Sobeys team has incredible execution capabilities,” Beshry said. “When retailers are able to adopt new technology and execute it quickly, it creates the right environment for rapid innovation.”