Published on July 8, 2007
|You're running out of shampoo, bath cream and toothpaste, so it's time to go to the supermarket. To make sure that you won't forget all the necessary things, you pick up a key chain which is like a member card, and is equipped with a bar code scanning feature, to scan the product item and everything else you want to buy.
Welcome to the future store, where shoppers will find a more convenient way to shop. Forget all about jotting down a list of items on paper. With the new future store concept, all your shopping lists can be electronically sent in advance to the supermarket. Once you get there, just tap the member card, and all your lists will be loaded to a display device on your shopping cart. The cart will then guide you to where your products are stocked.
"Shoppers' lifestyles in the new era are going to change," said Fredric Lam, manager of the IBM retail innovation centre. "New technology developments will make the supermarket smart enough to facilitate customers with more convenience when shopping."
Member cards equipped with barcode scanning features are the first gateway to make your shopping experience more convenient. "With this," he said, "shopping lists on paper will become something of the past as people in the future will use the card to tap the product to record what they want to buy."
Network infrastructure is also necessary to allow people to send their shopping lists to the supermarket, and once they get there, technology will help them retrieve their information.
In the supermarket, various kinds of technology will be available. For example, a new personal shopping assistant (or PSA) will allow shoppers to view their electronic shopping list.
PSA, an 8.4-inch display device, will communicate directly with the supermarket's server through Bluetooth wireless, Wifi, or infrared connections. Lam explained that once people come to the supermarket and tap their member card at the gate, their information, including member ID, shopping record, and the latest shopping list, will be sent from the central server to the targeted PSA.
There is still more information offered through PSA, he added. Not only will it show a shopping list, it will show shoppers the location of the product's shelf so they can go direct to the right place.
Meanwhile, with the utilisation of technology, the supermarket can also send its promotional information direct to the PSA.
"The promotion can pop up on the PSA screen when shoppers walk past the shelves to pick up their goods, and this way the supermarket can offer customised marketing to each individual," he said.
Technology will also revolutionise the payment system. Lam said in the future store, people can forget all about standing in a long queue to make a payment, as they can pay for products via a self-checkout system.
The system will automatically detect each product item, and then summarise the total amount of payment. The system can detect each product by shape and weight to check that the product is the same as the barcode or RFID tag. "This is to prevent cheating," he added.
For the payment process, instead of paying with cash or a credit card, shoppers just put their finger on the fingerprint scanner to make a payment.
Lam explained that in the self-checkout counter, the system is online and connected to the shopper's bank account.
Therefore, once they put their finger and password on the scanner, the system will automatically ask the bank's system for approval for that transaction.
The new self-checkout system will also help the supermarket to keep records of their customers, and it can use this information to improve their loyalty programmes and to develop new campaigns or promotions specifically for individual customers.
In turning an existing supermarket into a new future store, Lam said supermarket operators can upgrade the system step by step.
"To make the new future store, it does not mean that supermarkets have to change their existing technologies and systems totally. They can select the application they want to use first and change it gradually," he said.