Among the few food retailers involved with portable shopping systems, Bloom, a division of Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., has long offered self-scanning devices that allow shoppers to scan and bag as they go through the store.
In March, Bloom began testing another mobile shopping device, known as PAT (personal assistant technology), that is attached to the front of a shopping cart. The test is taking place in one store in Fort Mill, S.C.
PAT, which takes the form of a 8.4-inch touchscreen tablet, is similar to the Shopping Buddy that Stop & Shop tested between 2004 and 2007 except that PAT is permanently attached to the cart. PAT can be activated by any shopper — including loyalty card shoppers, the only customers able to access Shopping Buddy, and its successor Scan It! (see main story).
The Fort Mill store is the first supermarket to test PAT, which is supplied and managed by Springboard Retail Networks, Toronto (which calls it Concierge). The device is attached to 125 of the 170 carts in the store, according to Sylvain Perrier, vice president of technology for Springboard. Springboard is still “working through” the financial arrangement for the system with Bloom, he said. Bloom did not respond to requests for comment.
PAT allows shoppers to locate products, view a digital sales flier and look up recipes, and it enables loyalty shoppers to access online shopping lists and favorite recipes. The device also includes a global positioning system (GPS) that alerts shoppers to price specials in their vicinity as they shop the store. It also has a built-in bar-code scanner that will be activated in December. Unlike Scan It!, PAT does not deliver targeted offers to shoppers, though it will in the “near future,” Perrier said.
During the test, which runs through February, four “ambassadors” will be on hand at the store to explain the system to shoppers. So far, 50% of shoppers use PAT weekly, according to Perrier. The most popular feature has been the sales flier and the product search, he said.
When a shopper touches a sales flier item on the screen, they see such information as the product's location, ingredients, nutritional value — and even if it has been recalled, said Perrier. The item can be added to the shopper's list as well. When an item is scanned, suggested recipes appear.
PAT also features full-screen, location-based ads from CPG suppliers such as Clorox, Tyson, Acosta, Dr. Pepper and Kraft Foods. The ads only appear if the shopper is not touching the device. An ad revenue share with Bloom is being discussed, said Perrier.
In another test of a mobile shopping system, a product location and marketing service, from Aisle411, St. Louis, was introduced earlier this month at a Price Cutter store in Springfield, Mo. This one leverages shoppers' own mobile phones.
Shoppers can access Aisle411's voice-recognition service via any mobile phone by calling 1-877-AISLE411 toll free, stating their location and store, and asking for the location of an item; they receive the location of the item via voice and, if they request it, by text within seconds. Locations are described by aisle and section.
In addition, Aisle411 offers discounts via voice and text message that can be used immediately in the store. Current promotions offered through the service are from Price Cutter, though Aisle411 is discussing promotional deals with CPG vendors, said Pettyjohn.
The service requires no software download and is free to consumers, although standard phone charges from mobile service providers may apply. The system is achieving 90% voice recognition rates, and provides alternative selections if it does not understand the requested item, said Nathan Pettyjohn, chairman and chief executive officer of Aisel411. He did not disclose the cost of the service to Price Cutter.
According to Pettyjohn, an average of 20 Price Cutter shoppers are calling the service daily. “I'd like to see 25 to 75 calls per day per store, he said. Price Cutter said it did not have information on usage. The service is being promoted in the store with signage.
“Something like 16% of American shoppers leave the store without items on their list, simply because they could not locate that product on store shelves,” said Matt McDowell, store director for Price Cutter, in a statement. “Aisle411 helps our customers navigate our stores more easily and quickly.”
Pettyjohn said that a cell phone booster can be set up at a store with poor cell reception, though that is not the case at the initial Price Cutter store. Aisle411 is also being used by an Ace Hardware location.