A Wellington supermarket has partnered with a local tech start-up for a trial designed to enhance its customers’ shopping experience using the indoor equivalent of GPS.
Since 2 November, New World and Breadcrumb Data have been studying the movements of a small number of trolleys at New World Island Bay, using radio technology called ultra-wideband (UWB).
For eight weeks a device roughly twice the size of a bank card will be fixed to the front of 10 trolleys, and their movements followed around the store to within 10-30cm accuracy.
The data will then be appraised to provide insights on each trolley’s movements and the time spent at various stops.
New World Island Bay owner-operator Amanda Elliot says the 10 trolleys being used in the Trolley Location Project are clearly marked, giving customers the opportunity to “opt in” to help with the trial.
She stresses that the location data is completely anonymous.
“When Breadcrumb approached us about this we were keen to be part of something that could help us better understand our customers while also supporting Kiwi innovation,” says Elliot. “Everyone shops differently – some like to meander around the store while many others with busy lives like to get what they want as quickly as possible.”
“Time is the one commodity that many of us don’t have enough of. So if we can organise the store in a way that suits them, their shopping experience will be enhanced.”
Breadcrumb Data started-up in 2016 and developed their indoor positioning technology through the Mahuki accelerator programme run by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Breadcrumb Data CTO Shengkun Xie says while GPS technology has revolutionised outdoor positioning it doesn't work well indoors, where people spend 85 percent of their time.
“By understanding each trolley’s journey we can provide new insights to not only help customers but also improve each supermarkets’ efficiency,” says Shengkun Xie. “Our platform is also a vast improvement on other systems that use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi which are only accurate down to a few metres.”
Foodstuffs North Island (New Tech R&D) Darren Wood helped Breadcrumb adapt their technology to the supermarket environment.
"Technology tends to have a hard life in supermarkets, with lots of people putting a lot of demand on systems spanning a wide area," says Wood. "So we had to ensure theirs would be robust and easy to implement – and so far the results have exceeded expectations.”
"Heat mapping in particular means we can use new analytical technologies such as machine learning to predict shopping patterns over time, or identify trends we didn’t even know about previously, which in turn could help stores better prepare for peak periods and look at things like how to reduce queueing times."
Lindsay Rowles, GM Membership and Property, Foodstuffs North Island Ltd, says insights that could potentially be gained from the trial include further enhancing store layouts based on customers’ needs, and improvements to stock management.
“In-store positioning also has the potential help shoppers find products on their lists using a smart phone app, just as we already use Google Maps on our phones outdoors,” says Rowles. “There’s also the potential to make shopping more informative and fun, so I’m excited by Breadcrumb’s trial at New World Island Bay, and looking forward to seeing the end results.”