Safeway tests remote shopping technology

Safeway is to test a new remote shopping service, following an 18-month development project with computer giant IBM.

Up to 200 customers from the chain’s Basingstoke store will use new handheld personal organisers – called Easi-Orders – as part of the trial.

It is hoped the service will provide a more portable and adaptable alternative to Internet retail.

The palm-sized terminals, which can be linked through a phoneline to a database at the supermarket, are loaded with software for customising shopping lists according to a customer’s age, tastes, and past purchases.

Once selected, shopping orders will be prepared at the store for pick-up by the customer through Safeway’s existing Collect & Go trial collection system.

Safeway marketing director Roger Ramsden claims the Easi-Orders could eventually lead the way to interactive shopping by mobile phone and, thanks to digital technology, by TV.

He says: “It is the first piece of software which allows feedback between itself and the customer. It makes suggestions and gives prompts for purchases, to compile a helpful list.

“Most of our customers don’t have access to the Internet, so we had to look for an alternative system,” says Ramsden.

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