STAMFORD, Conn. — A home scanning device that consumers can use to create an online shopping order is starting to be supported by five New York-area independent food retailers.
The device and the online shopping system behind it are the brainchild of Ikan Technologies here. Consumers use the device in their kitchens to scan products about to be discarded, wirelessly transmitting detailed item information to their account at www.ikan.net (or to the website of an online retailer). The device also indicates whether an item can be recycled.
For produce and other items without a bar code, shoppers can speak into the Ikan device, which uses voice recognition technology to add the item to the online list.
After editing and supplementing the list online, shoppers send it to a participating local retailer, which fulfills and delivers the order within a specified time window. The retailer receives the customer's order in either an email or fax format.
The scanning device retails for $399 but is being promoted for $99 by some of the retailers, and in some cases it was given away for free. “We have 100 households using the system, and it's growing fast,” said Fred Wagner, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ikan.
The participating New York retailers, which Ikan announced earlier this month, are The Westside Market, a three-store operator in Manhattan; a Pioneer Market in Manhattan; a Met Fresh and a KRM Kollel Supermarket in Brooklyn; and Brach's Supermarket in Lawrence. Some have begun receiving orders via the Ikan system, said Wagner.
The system enables independent retailers to offer online shopping “without investing in online capabilities,” Wagner said.
He said that retailers supporting Ikan pay nothing for the service for six months, but then would pay a yet-to-be-determined service fee.
Ikan is the latest company to market a home scanning device that links shoppers to local supermarkets. Last year, KitchenAttendant, Marlboro, Mass., came out with a touchscreen kitchen system that included a bar-code scanner. KitchenAttendant ceased operations last July.
An earlier unsuccessful attempt at supporting home scanning was made by Troy, Ohio-based BeeLine, which provided a free cordless bar-code scanner.
But Dan Mazzara, vice president of supermarket operations for Arcon Corp., Great Neck, N.Y., a nine-store operator that runs the Met Fresh outlet supporting Ikan, said, “now that everybody is comfortable with iPods and laptops and Blackberries, the world is ready for something like this.” He described the Ikan scanning device as “about the size of a Mr. Coffee,” adding, “It's really clever.”
The Met Fresh, a 23,000-square-foot store that opened last November, was about to begin taking email orders via the Ikan system last week, said Mazzara, who had not yet received one when he spoke to SN. Orders arrive organized by department.
The store already delivers phone and fax orders sent by shoppers, but previous to Ikan had not taken online orders.
The Met Fresh store is promoting the Ikan system on its delivery truck, through brochures and in its weekly circular.
Mazzara pointed out that the Ikan system transmits far more detailed and precise information about desired items than a consumer normally does when calling in an order.
The Met Fresh store is looking for the Ikan system to increase shopper loyalty and “build business for us,” said Mazzara. “I'm not a computer geek, but I want to move forward through technology.”
Marcela Reis, a self-employed textile designer who lives in Manhattan, recently received her first order delivered via the Ikan system from a local Westside Market. “It's great,” she said. “I saved time and got everything I wanted. Why should I go to the supermarket and waste time in line? This is easy and fast.” It took her between five and 10 minutes to send her order.
But Tom Murphy, president of Peak Tech Consulting, Colorado Springs, believes that the change in consumer behavior required by the Ikan system will be too difficult to accomplish on a wide scale.