Beyond the hype: The Co-op’s tech-enabled research trolleys

The classic shopping trolley hasn’t changed much since it was first introduced in 1937. But the Co-op is set to change that, having rolled out trolleys fitted with tablets in 33 stores. 

As consumers move around the supermarket, the tablet triggers questions on everything from store layout and product ranges through to issues at the heart of the wider Co-op movement (such as sustainable food or youth unemployment). In this way, the trolleys will enable the Co-op to gain feedback in near real-time from customers in-situby providing insights into what they think and feel in-store. This will facilitate greater customer closeness for the beleaguered supermarket and enabled them to improve stores in line with customer feedback. 

Although the Co-op may have noble ambitions, the willingness of the customer to interact with these devices is likely to be limited and may, in fact, further damage shopper’s relationships with and perception of the Co-op brand. Asking consumers to participating in these surveys, no matter how short they are, intrudes on a harried and time-poor consumer’s shopping time, especially when they are offering no incentive to participate. Mobile research may well have been a better methodology due to the fact it provides a more comprehensive view of the customer journey and has the functionality to pose follow-up questions to in-store tasks.

But aside from replacing the technology entirely, how can the Co-op encourage users to participate in their market research? Beyond locking down the trolleys’ wheels until the tablet’s questions are answered, three ways spring to mind:

  • Make the questions immediately pertinent: We’ve all visited a supermarket and searched to no avail for that illusive jar of tahini (is it near the condiments? The world foods? The spreads? Who knows!) This is frustrating and makes shopping more stressful and onerous. Allowing customers to search for product locations on their tablets, directing them to the correct aisle and then asking them appropriate questions makes the value exchange more reciprocal and would increase participation.
  • Gamify question answering: Gamification is spreading across sectors and the trolley tablet lends itself to facilitating a more enjoyable and fun user experience. In a single visit a user could earn points based on the number of questions they answer and unlock levels and vouchers based on their responses. This would be even better if linked to customers’ club-cards, preferably through swipe panels mounted on the trolley: it would let the Co-op to link responses to individual shoppers, build customer profiles, target questions and push appropriate rewards to shoppers based on their purchase patterns
  • Cold hard cash: If all else fails giving customers the opportunity to save money on their shop is always appreciated. Money off bills and club-card points based on the number of questions answered would be the easiest way to incentivise participation.

The floor is now open to you. How would you drive customers to answer questions on these trolley tablets?