[Video] S.A. shopping trolley invention skips till queues and shops for customers
The days of queueing at the supermarket are over… and not finding an item or forgetting something you need will also soon be something of the past. All thanks to the South African Story Lab branded content agency, which is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network. The Story Lab has reinvented a space age shopping trolley with an on-board app called the Shopper Bot, which uses NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to enhance every aspect of the traditional shopping experience.
“Shopper Bot has been in an incubation phase for about a year,”explains Michael Zylstra, Executive Producer at Story Lab. “It really began with a lot of work that we were doing in the e-commerce space, and looking at the ease with which consumers could check out, compare products, etc…”
Zylstra says that Story Lab started realising that consumers wanted a lot more than they were currently getting in the offline environment. So the process began with researching the average South African shopper and how he/she uses the shopping trolley.
“The shopping trolley kind of struck us as one of those old technologies that was created in the 1950s and really hadn’t changed very much since its inception,” he says. “We wondered, could we bring the best of the online shopping experience and transform the actual shopping trolley into a tool to make shopping easier, faster – with the ultimate goal that consumers would spend more with retailers?”
He says that the methodology and approach was based on adding consumer value as opposed to creating an advertising platform to push messages.
“So the user experience and the user interface is around providing value for consumers and therefore inducing them to explore and use the app – as opposed to incentivising or pushing messaging,” he notes. “The potential exists, over time, to fully customise the experience to each shopper. The app learns about your shopping habits and can customise messages based on how you use it.”
The app is able to recognise products using NFC technology, and can then provide a lot of information around that product including calories, ingredients, recipes, etc…
“We started weaving stories and using content around the products,” says Zylstra.
Based on Story Lab’s research, which revealed some interesting things – like the fact that the top shelves are inaccessible for the average shopper – ‘small incremental changes’ were made to the actual shopping trolley.
“For instance, there is a small step in the back so that you can reach products on the top shelf,” he explains. “We kept the store layout in mind, and provided the ability to turn 360 degrees without taking out the kneecaps of the person next door to you…”
Starts At Home…
The Shopper Bot experience begins with exploring the store’s inventory on an app at home, so that shoppers no longer have to handwrite shopping lists, and they can just tick the required items in the app.
“When you arrive in store, you sync the app with the trolley, and it provides you with the optimised route to locate those products,” says Zylstra. “Another great functionality – which I think is long overdue in SA – is the ability to pay without standing in long queues, and being haunted by Lindt chocolate…”
They have also added a full recipe section that is searchable by how many people you have in your family, how long you have to shop, and videos for all of those meals that you can email to your phone.
“When you get home, you can watch a tutorial on how to make the ultimate Shepherd’s Pie, for instance.”
Embedded in the Product
“The technology is seamless and almost invisible,” says Zylstra. “We’ve often spoken about the embedded stories in physical objects, and a lot of marketing is about telling those stories in different channels. But we’ve never directly linked stories to the physical object… And that is what NFC allows us to do.”
He adds: “It offers us a content opportunity to wrap that product with stories about its origins, recipes, ideas for kids, heritage, etc. All that rich tapestry that surrounds a brand is now directly embedded into the product.”
According to Zylstra, they have prototyped the product for over 6 months. They have a technical partner in Microsoft, which has provided the Story Lab with Microsoft Tablets that have NFC readers in them.
Data Beyond Basket Size for Retailers
“For retailers, the level of contextual data that they can derive really goes beyond just the basket size that they previously worked with,” he explains. “And the potential of that really includes the ability to optimise the store layout at different times.”
He points out the now famous example of Walmart, where their analytics revealed that nappies and beers were being sold at the same time within a certain hour.
“They really couldn’t work out what the connection was,” he says. “It turns out that it was fathers who were sent on the nappy run, who were getting a 6-pack of beer. So what Walmart did was they reorganised where they put beer and nappies, and put them really close together for two hours.”
He adds: “That is the kind of real time analytics that we will be providing to retailers, that really allows them to optimise the store experience.”