Smart carts are shopping carts equipped with tablet computers and similar devices that help shoppers manage shopping lists, pay for items, and find products in the store. Manufacturers of smart cart technology produce accessory fittings stores can use to retrofit existing carts. It's also possible to purchase brand new shopping carts with the smart technology installed. While the technology was originally developed for grocery stores, it has applications in other settings as well.
The level of functionality available with a smart cart can vary. Some can integrate with cell phones or software programs to allow shoppers to create shopping lists and upload them to a cart. Internet-enabled smart carts may provide recipe suggestions or tips for shoppers. People who maintain a database of their pantries at home can cross-reference it with a smart cart to find out which ingredients they need to make a recipe.
Some smart carts can communicate with infrared or radio frequency identification (RFID) systems to guide themselves around the store. Shoppers can ask the cart where to find items, or have it organize a grocery list by aisle to make shopping easier. The same technology can also be useful for targeted advertising. As a shopper moves along the snack aisle, for instance, the smart cart could flash a reminder that the customer often likes to buy a particular brand of potato chips, or it could highlight a promotional deal.
In-store communication to allow customers to order items from a deli or meat counter may also be available. Conversely, a department could page a customer with the use of smart carts; the customer might log in at the start of a shopping trip, for instance, and the pharmacy can send an alert when a prescription is ready. This can save time and can also increase efficiency and reduce time spent in line.
Smart cart technology can also enable realtime price checks and allows customers to pay for items through the cart, without having to go through a checkout line. As they add items to the cart, it updates the total, and the shopper can close out the visit at the end by swiping a card or telling the cart to automatically withdraw from a stored bank account or credit card. This application for smart carts can be important in busy stores where customers get impatient waiting in line to pay. Customers who need a particular service can approach a service counter, while the rest can shop and pay without waiting on store staff.