E-commerce is not only gaining an ever-stronger foothold in people’s shopping habits, retailers that use it also have access to a treasure trove of consumer data. That’s an advantage brick-and-mortar stores have had a hard time tapping, but Bemis Manufacturing Co.’s smart cart aims to change that.
The Sheboygan Falls manufacturer, best known for making toilet seats, segued into the retail solutions market in another way: addressing shopping cart theft. An estimated 2 million shopping carts are stolen each year. It’s a costly problem, especially for retailers on the West Coast, where some municipalities require stores to put cart security programs in place and may fine shops if carts belonging to them are found elsewhere in the city.
Preventing cart theft using technology is only the beginning, says Kyle Payne, sales manager for Bemis Manufacturing. Most stores don’t know their customers as well as online retailers, which see not just what customers have bought but also what they’ve browsed.
“The ability to track a cart inside the store and start to learn how customers are actually shopping in that store is a really big deal because that unlocks some data about your shoppers that you never previously had,” Payne says.
So far, the manufacturer has sold around 150,000 of its carts, mostly for their anti-theft capabilities. John Bemis, general manager of the shopping cart division for Bemis Manufacturing, expects that number and the cart’s range of uses will only increase. “The interconnectivity that provides data on behavior that leads to better allocation of resources is one of the absolutely unignorable economic trends of the next several decades,” Bemis says.
— Jessica Thiel