IoT-Based Shopping Carts Offer Shopping Intelligence

Create: 04/12/2017 - 17:13
DASH robot retail

Photo: Five Elements Robotics


All retailers, whether online or brick-and-mortar, understand the importance of providing an easy shopping experience, knowing that doing so increases the likelihood of having return customers. Conversely, sellers also know the reality that a poor shopping experience—online or in a store—causes customers to abandon a purchase and walk away empty-handed. In fact, according to a recent Checkout Conversion Index survey, 40 percent of online shoppers leave their carts without making a purchase because of problems with the shopping experience.

Wendy Roberts, CEO of Five Elements Robotics in Wall, NJ, saw a similar walk-away pattern in physical stores. She noted in an interview with that one of the most serious problems customers encounter when visiting a store is not finding the goods they’re interested in buying.

“If a customer fails to find items on their shopping list, the physical shop could risk its own failure,” she said. Roberts noted that according to research, 85 percent of people will leave a store and not buy anything if they can’t find what’s on their list.

Dashing Around the Store

Her solution: build a better cart, or more specifically, a smart IoT-based shopping cart that knows what’s on every shelf in a store. Five Elements Robotics has developed an intelligent, self-propelled shopping cart named DASH that features an on-board tablet. The cart allows customers to choose a shopping list from their smart device or type in their list manually, then it goes to work.

The cart is equipped with a series of IoT sensors and cameras that allow it to map where items on a shopper’s list are in a store and even pinpoint their positions on the store shelf. Once the customer loads their shopping list, DASH will lead them to specific areas of the store using the most effective route. DASH also gathers data about the shopper’s buying habits, so targeted advertisements are displayed on the tablet based on the shopper’s buying history. When the shopping is done, customers don’t have to wait in a checkout line. Rather, they pay for the items on the cart’s display.

DASH tablet retail

Photo: Five Elements Robotics

DASH’s job doesn’t end at the door. The smart cart can follow customers back to their vehicle, so they can load the goods into their car. Once the customer unloads DASH, it automatically returns to a docking station in the store and sets up in the ready position, waiting for the next customer.

Competing with Online Stores

Roberts notes that customers like the “wow factor” of having a robotic cart escort them around a store. She says it is an effective way for brick-and-mortar merchants to compete with online retailers. Roberts anticipates that some customers will look for shopping carts over sales associates before starting their shopping. “The cart is right there when they walk in, and it’s the first thing they grab.”

The company also touts the advantages retailers gain from adding a dash of IoT to the shopping experience. The cart is designed to:

  • Increase sales
  • Enlarge and expand customer base and customer satisfaction
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Reduce losses from theft
  • Provide real-time inventory data and analytics.

DASH is scheduled to go into production in the next few months and will be in a handful of supermarkets around the country later this year for trial testing.

Business and Consumer Robots

Five Elements Robotics is developing a fleet of robots. It has already released another robotic product, named Budgee™, that can follow users wherever they go and carry their things, such as suitcases or bags. In addition, the company is also developing a nanny assistant robot, 5e NannyBot, that can help parents monitor kids remotely. And the company is working on other robotic products for the hospitality industry aimed at helping janitorial staff.

Learn more about DASH and watch videos of it on a shopping trip.

About Author

Patricia Schnaidt
Patricia Schnaidt is an expert business technology writer. She has held top publishing and editorial positions at InternetWeek, Network Computing, Windows Magazine and LAN Magazine. Schnaidt has written countless articles, lectured extensively, and authored "Enterprise-wide Networking" (Prentice-Hall). She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia College, Columbia University.

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