In restaurants, we’re cutting down on human interaction via self-order kiosks and smart kitchens, and in grocery stores we started seeing something similar with self-checkout becoming the norm, despite the issues it presents. And now Kroger is working to remove yet another opportunity for face time with grocery store workers by introducing the Trace Grocery eCart.
What is the Trace Grocery eCart?
According to Supermarket News, these electric-powered carts have a series of drawers that grocery workers pack with pickup orders. Then the cart is wheeled outside to the store’s curb where customers can use a special code to open their drawer and pick up their order. BrightDrop, the company that created the cart, reports that the carts have decreased time to serve a curbside customer by 34%.
Even though the concept is not unlike food lockers that store orders in some grocery locations, this device has the added benefit of wheels, decreasing the number of back-and-forth trips that employees need to make—the cart can move up to 350 pounds of groceries at a time. The compartments are also temperature controlled, keeping groceries at safe temperatures for up to four hours.
As of now, the carts are being tested only in Cincinnati-based Kroger stores and some Kentucky locations, but full-scale availability is expected by 2024. It’s a sign that the online grocery habits that we picked up during the pandemic are still going strong and we can anticipate seeing more new technology to support that habit.
Other recent changes to grocery carts
It’s been quite a year for grocery cart news, some good, some bad. In line with the Trace Grocery eCart is the Instacart Smart “Caper Cart,” which allows shoppers to sync their grocery lists to the cart and pay on a screen connected to the cart, skipping grocery lines. Then there’s Gita, a high-end grocery carrying robot made by the creators of the Vespa.
These innovations aside, some of us would like to keep using plain old grocery carts for the foreseeable future, which makes it disappointing when stores use locking grocery carts or get rid of shopping baskets entirely to prevent theft. Just because there is new technology in the grocery space, that doesn’t mean access to more traditional methods should be abandoned. As grocery shopping becomes a more high-tech digitized process in the coming years, keeping stores accessible to all shoppers will be key.