[See manufacturer specs below WSJ article]
Nancy Lafreniere has never worked in a supermarket but she can ring up groceries faster than the most seasoned cashier. Her edge: a wireless computer on the front of her shopping cart at the Super Stop & Shop in the Boston suburb where she lives.
Ms. Lafreniere uses a hand-held bar-code reader called the "Shopping Buddy" to scan all of the groceries herself as she walks through the aisles. The computer keeps a running tally of her purchases, and since it knows her shopping habits, it also can offer appropriate instant discount coupons for items right on the aisle she's cruising. All Ms. Lafrieniere does at the checkout counter is pay and go.
"It's fast, easy and convenient," says Ms. Lafreniere, an artist from Braintree, Mass. "I use it all the time."
Say hello to what could be the future of grocery shopping. Across the country, a small but growing number of supermarkets are testing a variety of high-tech gadgets designed to change the way people shop and the way stores promote their products. The technology goes way beyond the last wave of innovations such as self-checkout kiosks, which basically automate the familiar checkout process.
Over the past few months, Bigg's superstores in Ohio and Farm Fresh supermarkets in Virginia, both owned by Supervalu Inc., rolled out kiosks next to the deli counter to let customers preorder their deli items and pick them up later. Other stores have gadgets that notify customers when their film is developed or pharmacy order is filled.
Starting in July, customers at four Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. stores in Charleston and Columbia, S.C., will be able to pay for their groceries by placing their finger on a scanner at checkout, eliminating the need for cash, checks or credit cards. The 123-store chain is testing technology by Pay By Touch, a consumer-payment service, that links shoppers' credit cards or bank accounts with a digital image of their finger. The scanner doesn't store actual fingerprints, but takes a set of images and then encrypts that data to create a digital identity. To use the new technology, customers must first create an account with the store by scanning their finger, entering an access code and providing a loyalty card, credit card or bank-account information.
Supermarket operators say the gizmos will make shopping faster and easier, build customer loyalty by tailoring discounts and make for a smoother shopping experience. But there are tradeoffs: The Shopping Buddy, for instance, turns the customer into the cashier, which some consumers may not appreciate. And untangling a goof can mean a dreaded detour to the Customer Service counter.
Stop & Shop Supermarket's Shopping Buddy lets customers scan and bag their groceries as they walk the aisles.
The technology also furthers a store's ability to track purchases. Retailers tout the ability to offer promotions a customer is likely to want. Buy a carton of chocolate ice cream on one trip, and you may get offered a coupon for the same brand on the next trip; or scan a bottle of laundry detergent and get a message on the scan-gun display for a discount on fabric softener. But some shoppers may find it creepy if they get an instant 20%-off coupon for shampoo, aware that the computer knows they haven't bought any in a while.
Customers annoyed by the sales tracking can opt out of the offers when they sign up for the programs. But Bob Dunst, chief technology officer at Albertsons Inc., says most customers don't feel the offers are invasive and actually appreciate the heads up on discounts. "We're not just flooding them with offers ... saying do this or that," he says.
About a half dozen of Albertsons' Jewel-Osco supermarkets are trying out a scan gun similar to the one at the Stop & Shop in Braintree, Mass. With the device, which like the Shopping Buddy is made by Symbol Technologies Inc. of Holtsville, N.Y., shoppers also can preorder cold cuts and potato salad, and get messages from the deli, pharmacy, and film center on their scanner when orders are ready for pickup.
"Our customers tell us they feel they save 15 to 20 minutes in a shopping trip," Mr. Dunst says. While there are no plans for a chainwide rollout, the company is expanding the pilot program to other stores, including more than 100 stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area by mid-April.
Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., a division of retail giant Ahold NV, has been testing the Shopping Buddy in three stores since April. Customers such as Ms. Lafreniere pick up a computer from a rack just inside the store's entrance. To activate the device, shoppers place it in a cradle on their shopping-cart handles and scan their loyalty card with a small, detachable bar-code scanner. A list of past purchases and store offers pops up on the screen.
As they walk the aisles, scanning and bagging their groceries as they go, infrared transmitters on the ceiling beam signals to a receiver on the Shopping Buddy, which in turn sends a message to the store's computer network. The store thus knows where shoppers are at each moment and can promote the products in the aisle where the shopper is located.
Slicing the Salami
Users can order deli products with the Shopping Buddy touch screen and even specify whether they prefer their salami sliced thick or thin. A tone alerts them when the order is ready and the screen displays an order number.
The groceries never hit a conveyer belt on a checkout stand. Customers simply pay at a special self-checkout terminal that prints out a receipt.
It isn't always a seamless process. Margaret Wright, a bookkeeper who dashed into the Stop & Shop in Quincy, Mass., on her lunch break picked up a package of hot dogs marked on sale for 99 cents. But when she scanned the package her computer screen displayed the price as $4.19. "It was a hassle for me," says Ms. Wright, who had to grab a sales clerk and explain what happened to get a refund.
"With any system like this, you could end up with an error," a Stop & Shop spokesman says, "which is why we have a customer-service department."
To keep shoppers from walking out the door without paying for merchandise, Stop & Shop counts on random spot checks and video-surveillance cameras. That means shoppers randomly may be selected to go to a normal aisle, unpack all their merchandise and checkout the old-fashioned way by letting a clerk rescan all their items.
"It's a pain when that happens," says Tracy Miner, from Quincy, who was shopping last month at her local Stop & Shop with a teenager and eight-year-old in tow. As Alex, the 14-year-old, manned the cart and Samantha, 8, scanned groceries, she added: "I only do it because they like it."
Portable Shopping SystemTM (PSS)
Give Shoppers a Unique In-Store Experience
The Portable Shopping System (PSS) from Symbol Technologies is a retail mobility solution that puts power in the hands of your customers. With a powerful suite of applications and features, the PSS mobile computer is designed to increase customer loyalty and sales while reducing your costs. Streamline operations and enhance merchandising efforts with this dynamic mobile computer that enriches your bottom line.
Designed for deli, grocery, mass merchandise, pharmacy and retail environments, the PSS mobile computer is rugged yet light enough to minimize user fatigue. With a bright, visible display this consumer friendly device is ideal for many merchandising applications.
Operational Efficiencies Merchandising Opportunities Consumer self-scanning Real-time, point of decision marketing Price verification Location-based marketing Product locator Store specials, messages Gift registry Incremental sales and loyalty Enhanced communications In-aisle promotions Quick order for rapid fulfillment Customer shopping history, buying preferences in delicatessens, pharmacies
Actionable Intelligence to Boost Basket Size
With the PSS mobile computer, up-to-the-minute information on customers and their buying preferences is delivered right to your fingertips. You can leverage this accurate, timely data into actionable business intelligence that reduces the amount of guesswork involved in marketing. You can personalize coupons, loyalty programs and store specials that are delivered at the point-of-decision, building customer loyalty. The PSS mobile computer is a premier venue for targeted promotions designed to increase consumer spending per order, items purchased or basket size from each and every visit to your store. Also, you continue to reduce costs with applications such as self checkout, pricing verification and product locator.
Modular, Adaptable Solutions for End-to-End Mobility
Symbol PSS Solution Set:
The PSS mobile computer is a core component of an end-to-end mobile shopping system. The scalable PSS architecture includes a modular dispenser unit and checkout station. Implement PSS at your store, deli, pharmacy or retail outlet with the support and professional services of a broad variety of Symbol-certified third-party solution providers. You can select the application-specific software that best meets your needs—or even create your own. Deploy your personal shopping solution with confidence because it's from Symbol Technologies—the enterprise mobility company with proven systems at work in millions of retail locations around the world.
For more information, contact us at +1.800.722.6234 or +1.631.738.2400, or visit us on the web at: www.symbol.com/retail.
Features Benefits In-store compatibility with IBM, Corema, RMS point of sale (POS) systems Maximizes the value of your existing system software Withstands repeated 4-ft. (1.2-m) drops to concrete Delivers investment protection with tough, ruggedized design Entrance station available in two models with large, backlit liquid crystal screens to display text and 240x60 pixel graphics Provides rich text and graphics capabilities for easy viewing Entrance station with magnetic card swipe reader Enables speedy checkout Entrance station with omnidirectional bar code scan engine Offers fast, accurate scanning with minimal time spent aligning bar codes Printer (optional) issues up to 2,000 standard transaction tickets, coupons, shopping lists, recipes Gives you maximum marketing visibility and builds customer loyalty Spectrum 24® IEEE 802.11® wireless LAN Ensures a cost-effective easy installation with fast, secure wireless communications for PSS, printer and entrance station User-friendly, intuitive customer interface with multi-tone beeper Makes it easy for customers to adapt, increasing usage and productivity Large, easy to read screen Displays text and graphics (animated and stationary) for a unique interactive experience Programmable information key Allows you to customize your PSS mobile computer solution set
PSS Specification Highlights
Physical Characteristics Dimensions: 3.3 in. W x 2.8 in. H x 8.0 in. L 83 mm W x 70 mm H x 203 mm L Weight: 10.6 oz./300 g Display: 8 line x 20 character of text or 64 x 128 pixels for graphics Keyboard: 4 keys + trigger; programmable Memory: 1MB Flash Memory; programs run from Flash Software: PSS Mobility Architecture Power Source: 1800 mAh lithium-ion battery Performance Characteristics: Scan Element Light Source: 650 nm laser Ambient Light Immunity: Artificial: 450 ft.-candles/4,844 lux Sunlight: 10,000 ft.-candles/107,640 lux Scan Rate: 36 +/- 3 scans per second Performance Characteristics: Spectrum24 IEEE High Rate Wireless LAN Frequency Range: Worldwide product covering 2.4 to 2.5 GHz, programmable for different country regulations Frequency: 2.4 – 2.5 GHz (varies by country) Data Rate: 11 Mbps Output Power: 100 mW Typical Range: Up to 2,000 ft./606 m in open environments; up to 180 to 250 ft./54.5 to 75.7 m in a typical office or retail store User Environment Operating Temperature: 32° to 104° F/0° to 40° C Storage Temperature: 4° to 140° F/-20° to 60° C (RH < 95%) Humidity: 90% RH @ 50° C non-condensing Drop Specification: 4 ft./1.2 m drop to concrete Regulatory Electrical Safety: Certified to UL60950-1; CSA C22.2 No. 60950; IEC 60950-1: 2001EN 60950-1: 2001 Laser Safety: 21 CFR 1040.10, Class I, II; IEC825-1:1993 Class I, II; EN60825-1:1994 Class I, II EMI/RFI: 47 CFR FCC Part 15 Class B; EN 55022:1998 Class B; CISPR-22:1997 Class B; EN301 489-1/17; EN61000-4-2; EN61000-4-3
Specifications are subject to change without notice. Symbol® is a registered trademark of Symbol Technologies, Inc. All other trademarks and service marks are proprietary to their respective owners.
For system, product or services availability and specific information within your country, please contact your local Symbol Technologies office or Business Partner.
Part No. PSS Printed in USA 12/03 © Copyright 2003 Symbol Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved. Symbol is an ISO 9001 and ISO 9002 UKAS, RVC, and RAB Registered company, as scope definitions apply.
source: http://www.symbol.com/products/consumer_systems/pss_flyer.html 30mar04