Grocer's Smart Cart: Elevating the Customer Experience and Driving Efficiency

Neha Ghai
June 29, 2023
smart cart-customer experience-efficiency

At a Glance

  • The Smart Cart market is projected to reach a value of $9.74bn by 2030
  • Shopper demographics are shifting, with a rise in technology adoption and an increasing expectation for instant gratification and convenience.
  • 74% of grocery tech executives prioritize artificially embedded-technology when considering new software solutions
  • This article delves into the pain points faced by grocers and explores potential solutions to address them

Digital consumerism has revolutionized the retail landscape, offering unparalleled convenience, instant access to information, and a significant boost in incremental revenue for grocery stores. Thanks to advanced in-store tech, that seamless online shopping experience can now be nurtured and extended to physical stores. 

Personalized recommendations, promotional coupons, and easy payment options offer similar perks to in-store shoppers. Additionally, physical retailers can leverage smart carts to enhance the shopping experience. Smart carts enable shoppers to bypass long queues by paying directly on the cart or utilizing fast-tracked processing areas, resulting in swift exits. Moreover, smart carts can provide tailored offers based on a shopper's cart contents or previous buying history. 

The Smart Shopping Cart Market is experiencing remarkable growth, projected to reach a value of $1.76 bn in 2023. With a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.48%, the market is expected to reach an impressive $9.74 bn by 2030.

Part 1 of this series explored the power of smart carts, "Electrifying the In-Store Experience With Smart Carts" delved into the origin of shopping carts and their transformation to smart carts and their benefits. This article explores the grocer's pain points and mitigation efforts in addressing their friction areas by adopting smart carts.

Addressing Friction Points for a Seamless Grocery Shopping Experience

As the grocery industry experiences a surge in store sales post-pandemic, grocers are confronted with a range of challenges, particularly in self-checkout. Furthermore, the rapid advancement of AI technology and the preferences of a convenience-driven digital generation have pressured retailers to adopt AI solutions to elevate the overall customer experience. 

Navigating Frictionless Checkout and Embracing Tech Adoption

The latest report from Grocery Doppio's Performance Scorecard for May 2023 reveals that 74% of grocery tech executives prioritize artificial intelligence-embedded technology when considering new software solutions. This strong emphasis on AI signifies its crucial role in enhancing operational efficiency within the grocery industry. However, despite recognizing the importance of technology adoption, grocers encounter challenges due to misalignment among internal teams, specifically the e-commerce and product teams. Although operating under a common umbrella, these teams often have divergent goals and work in silos, making it difficult for grocers to effectively adopt new technologies and deliver the seamless shopper experience they aim to provide. Consequently, bridging the gap between internal teams becomes essential for successful technology implementation and meeting customer expectations.

The frictionless checkout experience has seen multiple formats such as the walk- out technology of Amazon, scan and go at Sam's Club, image recognition techniques, and ceiling-mounted cameras - investing in such tech advancements comes at a higher reward-risk ratio. 

Smart Carts are another format under the frictionless checkout experience and have been adopted by grocers around the globe; however, with any new technological adoption, glitches, and malfunctions are expected. Shopper's may face unresponsive touch screens, inaccurate barcode scanning, and other unexpected technological errors. According to Sprinting Retail, 74% of customers say that difficulty entering goods and frequent overrides were their most significant concerns with the technology. 59% of consumers said they would be more likely to use self-checkout if the technology was improved.

Social Change in the Shopping Experience

Shoppers must adapt and learn to engage with smart cart technology. Traditional shopping carts have long been a staple in grocery stores, and customers have grown accustomed to their straightforward usage. Some shoppers, particularly those less familiar with digital interfaces, may need help navigating the features of a smart cart. 

In addition to addressing the challenges of technology adoption and user familiarity, access and equity concerns must be carefully considered when implementing smart cart systems. It is essential to ensure that these systems are inclusive and accommodate the needs of various shopper demographics. The shopper demographic landscape is diverse, ranging from the silent generation, which may be less comfortable with technology, to fresh graduates who are digitally native.

In addition to addressing the challenges of technology adoption and user familiarity, access and equity concerns must be carefully considered when implementing smart cart systems. It is essential to ensure that these systems are inclusive and accommodate the needs of various shopper demographics. The shopper demographic landscape is diverse, ranging from the silent generation, which may be less comfortable with technology, to fresh graduates who are digitally native.

Moreover, shoppers can be in different lifecycle stages, such as young families, empty nesters, or retirees. To cater to these diverse groups, grocery retailers must provide options tailored to different preferences and levels of technological proficiency. This learning curve could slow down the shopping process and cause confusion. It's essential to recognize that more than integrating technology alone is needed to boost spending and shopper loyalty.

Compatible System Integration and User-Friendly Interfaces

Integrating smart cart technology with existing store infrastructure can be a complex and time-consuming for grocers. To ensure a smooth integration, retailers must carefully select vendors or companies that offer solutions compatible with their point-of-sale systems, inventory management, and security protocols. This requires thorough evaluation and collaboration to guarantee a seamless fit with existing operations.

Since adopting smart carts involves significant costs, grocers should prioritize establishing annual maintenance and subscription programs. These programs serve as a valuable resource for ongoing technical assistance and support, ensuring that any issues or updates can be addressed promptly. By having access to reliable technical assistance, retailers can minimize disruptions and optimize the performance of their smart cart systems.

User interfaces must be meticulously designed to engage shoppers with this technological adoption. The interfaces should prioritize intuitive navigation, making it easy for customers to explore and utilize the various features and functionalities of the smart carts. By providing a seamless and intuitive shopping experience, grocery retailers can enhance customer satisfaction and encourage wider adoption of smart cart technology.

Customer Data Privacy and Tackling Shrinkage

The adoption of smart carts in grocery stores emphasizes the importance of prioritizing data privacy and implementing robust security measures. These smart carts have the capability to collect valuable customer data, including purchase history and personal information. However, recent incidents, such as Wegmans discontinuing its scan-and-go service due to theft concerns, highlight retailers' ongoing challenges in maintaining data security and customer trust. 

Alongside data privacy, addressing shrinkage is critical when implementing new checkout technologies like smart carts. These advanced systems analyze shopping patterns and help mitigate shrinkage risks. To effectively prevent shrinkage, grocers must thoroughly stress test each new checkout technology to evaluate the security features' ability to limit losses to acceptable levels. 

Shrinkage significantly impacts a grocer's revenue, consuming around 2 to 3 percent, which is substantial considering the industry's narrow profit margins. Shoplifting has persistently plagued self-service stores. The pursuit of convenience and cost reduction has inadvertently made stores more susceptible to theft. Self-checkout machines and mobile checkout options, introduced to enhance convenience, unfortunately, contribute to higher losses for stores. 

ECR Loss reports that these self-service technologies provide opportunities for theft and lead to an increase in shoplifting incidents. Despite the advantages of self-service technologies like faster checkout and reduced staffing, they also present inherent security challenges due to the lack of direct human oversight, which shoplifters can exploit.

Accessing Limited Availability

While smart carts bring numerous benefits to the shopping experience, their availability in grocery stores may be limited or inconsistent. Shoppers may encounter challenges finding a smart cart when they need one, particularly during busy shopping. This availability limitation hinders shoppers from consistently experiencing the advantages smart carts offer.

Breaking Barriers: Seizing the Smart Cart Advantage 

With grocery shoppers becoming increasingly proficient in utilizing various channels, their expectations for fulfillment and a heightened customer experience have expanded across different retail formats. Grocery Doppio reports that in May 2023, a significant 71% of grocery shoppers shopped through multiple channels. While the pandemic accelerated digital sales and the adoption of online experiences, our research indicates that in-store sales remained consistent, ranging between 86% and 88% over the past year.

AI-Enabled Convenience Checkout

Smart carts, leveraging computer vision and AI technology, are transforming the shopping experience by enabling shoppers to scan items as they walk around the store, eliminating the need to stop at a self-checkout stand or go through a traditional checkout aisle. These innovative carts utilize AI algorithms for scanning and weighing items while also offering a linked card terminal for seamless payment right from the cart itself. This revolutionary approach saves shoppers valuable time and streamlines the checkout process, providing a convenient and efficient shopping experience.

Elevate Efficiency and Repurpose Staff

Smart shopping carts revolutionize the retail landscape by automating critical operations like item scanning and payment processing, leading to reduced labor expenses. With these labor-saving benefits, retailers can repurpose their cashier staff to assist shoppers on the shop floor directly. This strategic reallocation of resources allows employees to focus on essential tasks such as restocking shelves, attending to customers with complex needs, and guiding shoppers toward additional purchases. This shift enables retailers to develop a comprehensive customer service plan incorporating personalized assistance, boosting overall satisfaction. With additional staff available, retailers can effectively promote new products and offerings, maximizing their potential for increased sales. Smart carts enhance operational efficiency and empower retailers to deliver exceptional customer service while driving growth and engagement.

Salvaging Fresh Inventory

The current food labeling system contributes significantly to the global food waste crisis; consumer confusion surrounding expiration labels leads to approximately 20% of household food waste, resulting in an astonishing annual cost of around $161 billion. To address this pressing issue, introducing smart carts provides an innovative solution that empowers supermarkets to combat food waste and promote sustainability. One key advantage of smart carts lies in their ability to strategically highlight fruits and vegetables nearing their shelf life's end. Integrating retail media screens onto each smart cart further enhances the potential to reduce food waste and boost sales while salvaging inventory. By displaying targeted promotions and information on the screens, shoppers are more likely to choose items nearing their expiration date, leading to reduced waste. This approach is a win-win situation, as supermarkets salvage inventory that would have otherwise been discarded. At the same time, the community at large contributes to a reduction in its negative environmental impact.

Scalability and Inventory Management and Analytics

Scaling smart cart solutions across multiple stores or chains requires substantial resources and logistical considerations. Grocers must partner with vendors capable of establishing robust manufacturing, distribution, and support networks for large-scale deployments. Smart carts enhance inventory management, analytics, and personalized promotions, enabling retailers to optimize stocking and provide customized recommendations to enhance the shopping experience.

Retail Media Boosting Sales

Smart carts offer a valuable opportunity for retailers to create retail advertising spaces and unlock additional revenue streams. With their digital screens and geo-location capabilities, smart carts can display targeted ads as they navigate the store aisles. By leveraging bidding tools and contextual shopper data, the ad server can optimize ad placements to maximize revenue for the retailer. The success of retail media is evident in the case of Walmart, which generated over $2.7 billion in revenue from retail media in 2022. This demonstrates the significant potential for retailers to capitalize on advertising opportunities through smart cart technology. Furthermore, the retail media market is projected to reach $122 bn in 2023, indicating a promising future for this advertising channel.


Incorporating innovative smart cart solutions and technologies tailored to the in-store environment can enable grocers to meet shopper expectations, provide personalized experiences, and differentiate themselves from online competitors. By investing in an enhanced in-store consumer experience, grocers can cater to the needs of exploratory shoppers, foster customer loyalty, and drive sustained growth in an increasingly competitive grocery landscape.