Colruyt Lowest Prices tests in-house developed ‘Smart Cart’

Colruyt Lowest Prices tests in-house developed ‘Smart Cart’

The self-scanning shopping cart is a first in Belgium and a next step towards Colruyt Group’s store of the future

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Customers at Colruyt Lowest Prices in Halle may be in for a surprise over the next month. They might see a very special cart popping up in the aisles of their familiar store. At the beginning of March, a test with a new type of innovative shopping cart will be launched there. This so-called ‘Smart Cart’ scans the products added to it and automatically charges its content at the end of the shopping trip. In this way, shopping and paying for groceries will be even faster. A first in our country.

Easy shopping thanks to an innovative masterpiece

Colruyt Group is investing heavily in innovation and store digitalisation: the test with the innovative shopping cart is the group's next step towards the store of the future. After an extensive test phase of the in-house developed Smart Cart in Colruyt Group's innovation lab, it is now time for a trial in the field. In the coming month, the Smart Cart will be tried out by some of Colruyt Group's own employees in the Colruyt store in Halle. After that, a thorough evaluation will follow to see whether a test can be done with actual customers in the course of 2024. ​ This Smart Cart will make shopping faster and easier for users. While they are shopping in the store, customers register the products they want to buy by scanning the barcode in the cart itself. Via smart sensors (including camera technology) and using artificial intelligence, the Smart Cart checks the correct registration and weight of the products. The information is digitally uploaded to the tablet embedded in the cart's handle. On the tablet the current account can be monitored, while consulting the Xtra shopping list - which is automatically updated while shopping. Discounts are applied immediately while scanning. It is also easy to put a product back on the shelves: the customer can indicate it in the cart interface and then put the product back. The Smart Cart will also ask the user which product has been removed.

Jo Willemyns, COO Retail at Colruyt Group and General Manager Colruyt Lowest Prices, adds: "For products without a barcode, like fruit and vegetables, we have provided a solution for the future: initially, customers will be able to weigh the products on a specially equipped scale in the fresh market. Via a code on the scale, the customer can enter the weighed products on the shopping cart to add them to the current account. During the test with employees, fruits and vegetables will be placed separately in the cart, and they will be weighed at the checkout." Precautions were also taken in terms of preventing improper use: via the smart sensors in the shopping cart, errors, discrepancies and fraud are prevented. Payments are automatic, for instance via Payconiq, at the moment when the customer wants to leave the store. In the longer term, this will also be possible with Xtra Pay.

Test of a "Proof of Concept" to shop and pay faster

Colruyt Lowest Prices always strives to help customers check out efficiently and correctly, while continuing to provide excellent service. "In this regard, we believe that we should give customers the choice by offering different checkout options. With this type of shopping cart, we specifically want to cater to a certain group of customers who have little time and want to shop efficiently: we allow customers to scan their choice of groceries immediately. The payment process can also take place automatically on the cart itself, if the customer so wishes. So no more queuing at the checkout when shopping with this cart: it makes for a faster process for both employees and customers," Jo Willemyns says.

The Smart Cart offers customers a fast, highly efficient and secure option to do their shopping and checkout by themselves, in addition to the traditional checkout. The intention is to significantly speed up the registration process on the cart in the long term by using artificial intelligence and product recognition, which will make shopping even smoother. "At the same time, we remain convinced that our current checkouts also have many advantages in terms of service and customer contact. Therefore, the traditional checkout will certainly not disappear at Colruyt. We will still continue to help the vast majority of our customers in this way, and this innovation will also help us ease the pressure on the tight labour market. We are also working on innovation in that traditional checkout, for example we launched the easy checkout just last year and it can currently already be found in 20 stores," according to Jo Willemyns.

Own development with lots of interesting options

In addition, the Smart Cart can become a digital platform where additional services can be offered to customers, for example to help them find products in Colruyt stores, recognise promotions, manage shopping lists and so on. "It will therefore eventually be possible to use this cart as a channel of communication and interaction with the customer at the most relevant moment for them and for us: an interesting opportunity," Jo Willemyns concludes. The development of the Smart Cart was done in-house, by the innovation team of Colruyt Group Smart Technics, partly realised with the valued support of VLAIO. If it is commercialised in the long term, Colruyt Group wants to collaborate with some of their permanent partners.

Towards the store of the future

The smart shopping cart will be tested in the Colruyt store in Halle and is the retailer's next step towards the store of the future. In the same store last year, Colruyt also launched the easy checkout last year, a checkout system that works through artificial intelligence, allows employees to work more ergonomically and saves time for both customers and employees. That technology can currently be found in 20 stores and is being rolled out. In addition, Colruyt is fully committed to data capture that reduces waiting time at the checkout, ensures optimally stocked shelves and makes employees work more efficient. Colruyt Group continues to innovate and work on future-oriented solutions to optimise the shopping experience and allow employees to work with the latest technologies.