Supermarkets are becoming more tech-savvy and changing the way consumers shop.
It first started with self-service checkout systems and now trolleys are being equipped with computers and GPS tracking systems. And while they promise speed, convenience and further opportunity for retailers to communicate with their customers, CHOICE has conducted its own review to see how useful they really are.
Self-service checkouts allow consumers to scan, bag and pay for items unassisted. Since 2003, Coles has installed them in 90 stores across Australia, with plans to roll them out to a third more within the next two years.
CHOICE verdict: This service offers convenience and efficiency for customers buying a small number of items. Despite this, feedback received by CHOICE shows people are frequently frustrated with bagging and weighing technology, lack of attention shown by customer service assistants and difficulties faced when trying to look up items on touch screens.

"Self-service checkouts may be useful when you have a few items but these sorts of hurdles can be infuriating, especially when you’ve got a full trolley," Ingrid Just, CHOICE spokesperson said.

'Tap N Go' card readers allow shoppers to tap their credit or debit card on a card reading device without having to sign or enter a PIN for transactions under $100. This technology is already by JB Hi-Fi, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, Bunnings and Dymocks.
CHOICE verdict: The technology makes transactions faster and can potentially lessen queuing. It may also help reduce incidents of consumers leaving cards behind as the card never leaves their hand. However, there are some concerns about security as no identification is required when used.

"There are undeniable benefits to these cards, tech heads will love them, but there are others who have concerns about how they make spending easier," Just said.

Smartphone barcode scanning apps allow consumers to scan product barcodes and check for price comparisons. The apps provide links to extra product information and/or price comparisons. They can also alert consumers to products containing certain allergens. The apps are currently available in Japan, the UK and the US.
CHOICE verdict: These apps have real potential to take the legwork out of shopping, provided they does not replace on-pack product information or disadvantage shoppers who don’t own smartphones.

"Being able to compare prices on products at shops, in your neighbourhood and online, with a press of a button, will revolutionise shopping – these apps have been a big hit overseas and are already making inroads into Australia,” Just said..

VIP Trolleys feature a computer, video screen and GPS navigation. The trolleys automatically scan and calculate the total cost of items as they’re placed in the basket. It also alerts shoppers to specials. Consumers can upload shopping lists and recipes and the trolley will then direct them to the store location of the listed items. They are currently being trialled in some IGA stores in Melbourne and Canberra.
CHOICE verdict: The running totals and GPS navigation are useful devices for saving on bills and reducing time spent in store. However, the trolleys also provide additional avenues for companies to collect consumer data and increase direct point-of-sale advertising.

 "These high-tech trolleys can help people keep to a shopping budget, but they also have the potential to turn an everyday activity like supermarket shopping into a retail laboratory," Just said.