Sobeys pilots Smart Cart, the first intelligent grocery shopping cart

The grocery supply chain deals with obstructions from start to finish. From inbound ingredient receiving to outbound shipping, then to the DC receiving dock through order assembly and retail delivery, there are plenty of checkpoints that act as bottlenecks. Necessary as they might be to verify shipment accuracy, they slow the flow of goods. Sometimes we call them pain points.

IoT is looked at as an opportunity to provide the needed accuracy, without bringing things to a screeching halt at every link in the chain. The most frustrating bottleneck for retail shoppers can be checkout. Research shows that 52 percent of Canadians feel their current in-store shopping experience would significantly improve if they were able to quickly and conveniently navigate the store1. While cashier-free stores have already established a small position in the market through formats such as Amazon Go, as well as by others internationally, Sobeys is bringing the first intelligent shopping cart to Canadian grocery stores with the launch of the Sobeys Smart Cart, an innovative technology-enhanced shopping cart which it pitches as offering customers a highly-engaging, fun and fast way to shop.

Sobeys rolls out the first intelligent shopping cart, called the Sobeys Smart Cart, to Canadian grocery stores today at the grocer’s Glen Abbey Sobeys location in Oakville, Ontario. (CNW Group/Sobeys Inc.)

The Sobeys Smart Cart pilot began October 2019 at the grocer’s Glen Abbey Sobeys location in Oakville, Ontario. According to Sobeys, the Smart Cart aims to enhance the in-store shopping experience with a focus on improving one of the greatest points of customer friction – in-store checkout lineups.

The cart’s groundbreaking technology scans and weighs products as customers place them in the cart, displays a running tally of purchases while the customer shops, and allows customers to pay on the spot with the cart. No waiting, no line-ups.

“While products and customer eating habits have evolved, the in-store grocery shopping experience has remained relatively static for the last 100 years.” said Mathieu Lacoursiere, Vice President, Retail Support at Sobeys Inc. “This is a unique way for us to test innovative new technologies aimed at enhancing the customer shopping experience and learn how best to make it faster and easier. The carts will also give our in-store teammates more time to interact with customers and answer questions about food and new products.”

Equipped with AI and machine learning technology, the cart will continually evolve to improve beyond a speedy checkout. The cart’s easy-to-read screen will eventually help customers navigate the store to complete a shopping list, highlight great-value promotions and make product suggestions to round out a favourite recipe. This pilot is part of Sobeys’ customer-focused innovation approach to learn and continuously improve through customer feedback.

The cart will also evolve from “scanning” product, to “identifying” product. The Sobeys Smart Cart includes multiple high-resolution cameras that capture 120 images per second as product is placed in the cart, which allows the cart to learn how to identify each grocery item. Supported by the cart’s sensitive weight measures, customers will eventually be able to toss their items into the cart without having to enter any information or scan barcodes.

“Sobeys is an innovative grocer with a strong focus on enhancing the shopper experience,” comments Ahmed Beshry, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Caper, the technology partner behind the Sobeys Smart Cart. “The Sobeys Team has incredible execution capabilities. When retailers are able to pick up a new technology and execute quickly, it creates the right environment for rapid innovation.”

With the Smart Cart and other initiatives, Sobeys says it is striving to improve customers’ in-store experiences through the use of innovative new technologies and applications.

“The best Canadian brands aim to be world-class by thinking ahead and placing bets on unique innovations,” Lacoursiere adds. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to evolve the grocery shopping experience. During the Smart Cart pilot, we will engage with our customers in real time to better understand what inspires them and adds value to their shopping experience throughout the store.”

  1. Source: 2019 Canadian Consumer Insights Survey, PwC Canada