In a partnership with Veeve, Kroger has introduced Krogo smart carts into some of its stores.
- The supermarket giant Kroger has partnered with the smart-shopping-cart company Veeve.
- Insider swung by an Indiana Kroger to test the carts with Veeve CEO Shariq Siddiqui.
- "What we're really doing is watching the customer shop," Siddiqui told Insider.
With contactless shopping on the rise, smart shopping carts are no longer a futuristic fancy. This technology can be found in stores across the country.
Amazon and its Dash Carts have received the most attention in the contactless-shopping space. But Veeve, founded by the Amazon alumni Shariq Siddiqui and Umer Sadiq, is now winning favor with some retailers.
The startup hopes to make contactless shopping more accessible to retailers by eliminating the costly camera setup that Dash Carts require. Veeve incorporates all the technology needed into the cart, including barcode scanning and computer-vision technology. Earlier this year, Instacart entered the space, too, through its acquisition of the smart-cart manufacturer Caper.
Veeve has partnered with the grocery giants Albertsons and Kroger for several limited pilots. Siddiqui told Insider that the COVID-19 pandemic had "accelerated" the demand for smart carts.
"Retailers are trying to figure out, 'What's the best way to bring customers back into the stores?'" he said. "And customers are trying to figure out, 'How do I walk into a store, do a quick transaction where nobody touches my stuff, and then I just walk out?'"
Siddiqui credits Amazon's Dash Cart play with prompting a flood of interest from retailers like Kroger, Albertsons, Walmart, and Target.
"That was the moment for us where we were like, 'Hey, we can really accelerate this demand,'" he said.
To learn more about the technology, I visited a Kroger in Avon, Indiana, and met up with Siddiqui, who serves as Veeve's CEO. We took a turn around the store, picking up different items to test out Veeve's Krogo cart.
Insider subscribers can read: A 17-year Amazon veteran tells us how he plans to outsmart Amazon Go and Instacart with his startup's AI shopping carts, now used by Kroger and Albertsons
When we started out, I found the Veeve somewhat heavier than your average shopping cart but still highly maneuverable.
I tested out a Veeve cart at a Kroger in Avon, Indiana.
When you begin browsing, there's an option to punch in your phone number, or you can use the cart as a guest.
The Veeve cart's display.
According to Siddiqui, Veeve's goal is to provide a seamless experience that allows shoppers to use coupons and their shopping lists, and it wants to incorporate navigational features to save them time in the store.
Two shoppers use a Veeve cart in Kroger.
"The future plan is to really personalize this," he said. "Your shopping list will automatically show up."
A man shops with a Veeve cart at a Kroger.
There are also modifications in the works regarding the cart's software capabilities and overall design. Veeve is looking to introduce a lighter cart, according to Siddiqui.
People examine a Veeve cart in a Kroger.
The Veeve cart operates on barcode-scanning and computer-vision technology. The customer picks up different items as they shop, scans them, and places them in the cart.
I tested out a Veeve cart at a Kroger.
Down the road, the plan is to eliminate the barcode-scanning element to allow for a more seamless experience, Siddiqui said.
A Veeve cart's display.
Once a product is in the cart, the technology adds each item to a list of recognized products on the touch screen.
A man shops with a Veeve cart in a Kroger.
The system also has the capacity to weigh and calculate the price of produce.
A Veeve cart weighs produce.
To prevent theft, the Veeve carts track weight and include numerous cameras and scanners. "What we're really doing is watching the customer shop," Siddiqui said.
Veeve has anti-theft capabilities.
But despite its anti-shrink or anti-theft measures, Siddiqui said the carts were designed to be "forgiving."
A Veeve cart's display.
Siddiqui said he didn't want the cart to penalize shoppers for changing their minds or those with kids who tend to throw all sorts of snacks in the cart without asking.
Veeve lets you change your mind about products.
If an item in the cart isn't properly scanned, it pops up as "unrecognized."
A Veeve cart.
No alarm bells will go off, but the customer will have to identify or remove the product before they can leave.
A man shops with a Krogo cart from Veeve at a Kroger.
Siddiqui said Kroger employees — usually the person monitoring the self-checkout station — were also given the power to audit and monitor carts. On the touch screen, cart users can alert these employees if they run into a snag.
A Kroger employee interacts with a man shopping with a Krogo cart.
Each cart has a light on the front, and the light's color is determined based on the status of the cart. Green means everything's fine. Orange means an item that requires an age verification is in the cart, such as a bottle of wine. Red means a cart has an unrecognized item inside or it's under audit. And blue means it's all paid for.
This cart's light is green.
If a shopper comes up to self-checkout with a blue-lighted cart, they can just leave with their items. The carts come stocked with large paper bags, so customers are essentially bagging as they pick up items around the store.
Veeve's smart carts awaiting customers in a Kroger.
Siddiqui told me that in some stores, baby boomers had been the most enthusiastic early adopters, as they found the carts "much easier and a little bit more fun" than self-checkout.
Veeve carts in a Kroger.
Throughout the shopping expedition, I noticed that a number of other customers were using the Veeve carts. One man in a baseball hat pushing a smart cart even called over to us, asking, "Aren't these great?"
I wasn't the only one with a Veeve cart.
In terms of what's next for Veeve, Siddiqui said the company was looking at celebrity partnerships that could allow shoppers to make purchases by downloading their favorite star's shopping list.
A man shops using one of Veeve's Krogo carts in Kroger.
Siddiqui said he also hoped Veeve could add a social component that allows shoppers to share their shopping lists with one another.
Krogo and standard Kroger shopping carts.
"I personally am excited about the fun and the social element, and the gamification platform that we want to build," the CEO said. "That adds a whole new dimension to shopping."
A man shops using one of Veeve's Krogo carts.
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