Smartcart brings digital convenience to brick and mortar stores
Tired of thinking about what to cook tonight and not finding what you want in a grocery store? Digital shopping trolley Smartcart promises to put an end to these worries.
It is easy to spot a grocery store using technology from Finnish company Smartcart. Pull out a shopping trolley and it comes equipped with a touchscreen tablet. These devices are loaded with over 6 000 recipes, price and product information and daily offers. You can transfer products from a recipe to a shopping list, and find out the location of and fastest route to any product and which customer number queue-based services, such as the fishmonger, are currently serving.
“We started from the idea that the shopping trolley could be something more than the transportation tool it has been since its launch in 1937,” says Petteri Heiman, Smartcart CEO. “We use the shopping trolley to improve the customer experience in a brick-and-mortar store, to make it faster and more pleasant.”
This includes addressing many shoppers’ greatest pet peeve: queuing. While various self-service checkout systems already aim to tackle this problem, Heiman notes that they can be slow for consumers to use. What Smartcart is working on instead is using its tablet as a barcode scanner. A consumer can scan products as they are picked and pay at the end through the same tablet.
The Smartcart scanner remains in testing, but it has already raised investors’ interest. Recently, the company announced a financing round of 1.5 million euros – including R&D funding from Business Finland – aimed at international expansion and transforming its tablets into self-service checkouts.
Heiman started to work on his digital shopping trolley idea four years ago. After sounding out the concept with a friend, professor of marketing Joonas Rokka, Heiman found partners in Tobias Hannus and Mikael Hirn and founded Smartcart in spring 2014.
The company had its first proof-of-concept projects up and running within a few months, but it took several years of product development to get Smartcart to where it is now. A critical issue for the company was making the system as frictionless for retailers as possible.
“For most store managers, their core business is purchasing and selling products, and that is what they want to focus on,” Heiman explains. “We have created a system we can now deliver as a ready package. It covers everything: installation, automatic charging, maintenance. The store staff don’t have to do anything.”
Smartcarts roll out
Smartcart, which employs 20 people, is currently used by over 90 stores in Finland and has struck a partnership with the Superseis grocery store chain in Paraguay. Superseis is where the company is testing its self-service checkout system, and it also marks the first step in its internationalisation plans.
“We are talking about taking this [partnership] to the next stage,” says Heiman. “We also have several discussions ongoing in Europe and the Middle East, and we are identifying other suitable retail chains.”
Heiman believes the key challenge retailers face today is how to combine the best of two worlds, online and brick-and-mortar shopping. Digital has made customers demand fewer queues and more personalisation, and this is why Smartcart has the potential to thrive.
“In a few years’ time, the shopping trolley won’t be just a steel frame and wheels; it will integrate the checkout, bonus points, information services and advertising,” Heiman predicts. “We want to be the company that transforms this market.”Text: Eeva Haaramo
Good News from Finland is published by Finnfacts, which is part of Business Finland.