The Shopping Cart of the Future is Now at ShopRite and Fairway

The Shopping Cart of the Future is Now at ShopRite and Fairway

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As driverless cars have hit the highways, the “human-free” shopping experience is becoming a reality. The Caper Cart, 65 percent lighter than previous versions, debuted this month at ShopRite and Fairway stores in New Jersey.  These carts, developed by Instacart and powered by AI and computer vision technology, are tied to the ShopRite loyalty program.

The cart first debuted in 2019, but the impact of the pandemic and shoppers’ and brands’ adaption of self-checkout technology probably slowed the integration into everyday shopping behavior.

The smart shopping cart market is currently valued at $2B globally and is expected to grow to $6B by 2028.

Rather than requiring consumers to scan individual items at check-out, the cart keeps track of purchases as the consumer puts them into the cart, and then the consumer exits, much the way they drive through an EZ Pass Lane today.

The technology can also detect shoplifting, saving money on human labor and loss due to crime.

Kroger, Albertsons, and Wegmans are among the other multi-location (MULO) grocery brands that are incorporating smart cart technology into their stores.

Although the technology can speed checkout and enhance data-gathering and marketing (see below), changing human shopping behavior can be slow. As we’ve seen, many consumers still struggle with scanning their groceries or convenience items at check-out.

When technology fails, or consumers are mischarged, humans still must be trained to deal with both automation and customer service issues, giving rise to a whole new job description for retail employees.

ATMs revolutionized the way people banked. And, as mentioned earlier, we’ve become accustomed to driving through tolls rather than paying cash. The evolution of the shopping cart was inevitable.

The smart cart technology has applications that extend beyond speed and cost savings. Savvy marketers will use smart carts to:

  • Analyze shopper decision-making behavior. What’s removed from carts or swapped out may be as important as what’s ultimately purchased.
  • Create personalized consumer prompts to enable ill cross-sell and up-sell and give shoppers recommendations for new items.
  • Reward frequent shoppers. In fact, ShopRite’s Caper Cart test is tied to its loyalty program.
  • Give consumers cost-effective alternatives and shift brand loyalty. For example, store brands may be offered up as alternatives.

Incorporating smart cart technology into grocery, convenience, and other retail stores has practical and financial challenges. The carts currently retail for $5K-10K, whereas an “old fashioned” cart is about $100. Storage and security are also factors.

Only time will tell if this new technology pays off in the long run and if consumers can change long-established shopping behaviors.


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.