Technology Might Make or Break Grocer

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Baseline: Albertson’s: A Shot at the Crown

"A customer’s shopping experience will begin at home with an Internet portal. The shopper will develop a shopping list using menu plans and shopping histories. If a family member has a peanut allergy or is on the Atkins diet, that information can be plugged in and menu choices suggested. When she gets to the store, she’ll use a loyalty card to obtain a handheld device, like the one used by Bishop in Barrington, Ill. Loyalty cards have been deployed in all but one of the company’s seven retail divisions, with Albertson’s collecting data on 1.4 billion shopping trips in 2002.
The handheld device will automatically reach out to the Internet, grabbing the customer’s shopping list. Then it will log into the store’s inventory. Once it has matched the desired goods against the available goods, it will map the shortest route through the aisles for the customer to grab each item. Using patterns of past shopping, the device will present promotions on items that Albertson’s believes will be of interest to the shopper as she walks through the store, such as the paper-towel offer Bishop received. If the customer has a prescription to fill or photos to be processed, the Symbol device will let them know with a text message when they’re ready."

Albertson’s, faced with pressure much more punishing that what record companies are belatedly coming to grips with, is catching up with the Wal-Mart juggernaut on the backend, and planning to deliver a very (too?) sophisticated shopping experience to differentiate itself from the low-cost leader. Vendors involved include the usual suspects such as NCR, as well as Trigo, a company that provide product information management software.

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