The smartest shopping cart that ever lived

MediaPost reports this morning on an interesting new survey from TNS, which says that “sixty percent of shoppers across the globe believe that they will be able to pay for purchases using just their fingerprint by 2015, rated top by 25% of shoppers.” Never mind the chill that should send down the spine of anyone who values their privacy – we’ll deal with that another day. For the moment let’s have a look at what people expect from The Future®.

It’s hard to say which of these developments will come to pass by 2015, of course. It’s been said that we tend to overestimate what will happen in the next five years but that we underestimate what will happen in the next ten. 2015 is seven years away, so maybe. Shopping by mobile phone is a certainty, I’d say, but 3D body scanning? Technically feasible, sure, but will it make economic sense? Who knows?

I wanted to remark on one of the innovations, though, because it does seem pretty plausible. In fact, I think the likely scenario goes a little further, even. Look at that seventh item – smart shopping carts. Here’s how I look for that one to play out.

  • 67% of respondents are expecting “interactive, intelligent shopping carts that locate products in the store, check prices and promotions, upload recipes and complete the checkout process.” Imagine a cart with a video screen that’s equipped with RFID technology and hooked into the store’s CRM engines. When you grab your cart you log in, allowing the store to access your consumer profile (which by this point in time will be frighteningly detailed, whether you like it or not). The cart knows where you are in the store, and has a detailed history of how you’ve shopped in the past. It probably knows where you’re going before you do.
  • You’ve no doubt opted in to the retailer’s discount/couponing program, so as you approach certain featured items your screen will let you know where the savings of the moment are.
  • The cart is accessible by the store manager, who can offer spot specials when he/she wants to reduce inventory on an item. Further, the cart is jacked into the corporate supply chain system, so these kinds of inventory moves can be managed from HQ and/or regional distribution centers, either by human managers or the computerized systems that monitor inventory levels and automate shipping schedules.
  • I guess it goes without saying that this cart is a modern-day marvel of targeted advertising, right? Store and corporate managers can act on consumer profile data to activate real-time ad programs from their suppliers. In addition, the advertisers themselves will have the power to project messaging and a variety of incentives to the on-cart monitor.
  • In more ways that my brain can quite imagine right now, this system will integrate with the Minority Report scenario outlined here.
  • Done shopping? Forget checkout. Your selections will be bagged and as you leave the store it will be charged to your authorized card.

If I’m off in this prediction, it’s because I’ve doubtless underestimated things in spots. But the technology to do most, if not all, of what I describe here already exists – it’s just a matter of time before it’s all pulled together.

Let’s file all this away and make a note in Outlook to check back in 2015 to see how close we were.

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14 responses to “The smartest shopping cart that ever lived

  1. You are absolutely right about the smart shopping carts. I could see this happening in the next 3-5 years let alone 7.

    The 3-D body scanning actually makes sense as well. My wife hates shopping for jeans because she has trouble finding a pair that fits just right. Step into a changing room, get scanned, and by the time you are dressed again an assistant has the top 3-5 best fits for you to try. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

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  3. Well designer jeans can sell for a couple hundred dollars. I have no idea on the cost of a scanner or margins on jeans.

    Just an example: Let’s guess-timate a margin of $50 a pair factoring in cheaper alternatives. A $30,000 scanner would pay for itself with 600 additional sales.

    My wife says she would go tomorrow to a store that could guarantee her better fitting jeans…

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