Friday, October 12, 2007

High Tech Carts Inform Shoppers Of Unhealthy Choices In London

ABC News has reported that shoppers London may soon be pushing around "trolleys" (that's shopping carts for us Yanks) that have the ability to warn them when they are buying too much unhealthy food at the supermarket.

According to the article, "the high-tech model will be fitted with a computer screen and barcode scanner. It will read each product's individual code to give customers information about calories, nutrition, ethical sourcing and the environment." This is definitely an interesting concept and it opens up the possibility for other similarly themed technologies that can provide shoppers with useful information (ill-fate of the Shopping Buddy be damned). It's also a potentially great way for customers without in-depth knowledge of the foods they eat to maintain a healthy diet.

However, the system is not without its drawbacks, the first of which obviously being that there are tons of products in any supermarket that are not healthy (in fact their numbers probably easily outweigh the healthy options). What will the folks at places like Frito Lay feel about a machine attached to a cart that essentially tells shoppers not to buy their product? My guess is they won't be making any contributions to EDS, the U.S. based company responsible for the technology. Plus, it could also cause a lot of overly crowded shopping aisles as customers stop and read information about various products.

This kind of technology is probably better suited to specialized health food stores where people are making the conscious decision to eat an entirely healthy diet, and are willing to take the time to learn about the different options the store offers. In mainstream supermarkets, the systems simply have too much potential to do more harm than good, at least from a business perspective.

Tags: kiosks, smart cart, marketing at retail

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