I have seen a few press pieces and blog posts about MediaCart, the latest company to take a stab at putting smart screens on shopping carts.
Media in Canada, among others, had a piece recently about the company:
“The MediaCart is hailed as an RFID marketing app innovator in that each cart has a electronic reader that tracks info from chips embedded in shelf price labels. The cart tech can both monitor shopper behaviour, and influence it, via on-screen ads that pop up as shoppers pass by designated products.
To help shoppers find what they’re looking for, the smart-carts have both voice-recognition technology and a system that gives directions when shoppers type in two or three letters of an item’s name. And, for tricky questions, they have mobile phone capability to connect users with customer service help.
When consumers complete their shopping, the carts have a self-scanning feature to speed checkouts. But if shoppers are stuck in a checkout lane with bored kids, the carts can play clips of Disney DVDs that not only entertain but drive impulse purchases.”
Some interesting stuff there, particularly monitoring shopper behavior. But then there’s all kinds of comparably low-tech stuff out there that already does that, like loyalty cards and POS systems and wayfinding signs that tell you in a simple, low-tech way that the soup is down the next aisle. Will stores invest, I’m guessing, $3K a cart and then all kinds of other infrastructure and ops costs to do that job instead. Who knows, but most of the grocery operators I’ve bumped into are penny-pinchers.
I’m more skeptical for the simple reason that no matter how much engineering work has gone into these babies, people are going to beat the ever-loving crap out of them everyday. The attrition rate will likely be very high.
I wish them well – particularly the operations guy, who I suspect will have one ugly job keeping these things running in the field.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.