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Stop & Shop

The Project: Introduce "shopping buddies," small computers attached to grocery carts, to target customers with promotions.

The Payoff: While still in field trials, the buddy could improve loyalty and help Stop & Shop sell more groceries.

Picture this: you're strolling down the aisle of your local supermarket. You reach for a bag of salt-free tortilla chips, and just at that moment, your shopping cart buzzes. On the screen of your cart's tiny computer a promotion pops up for extra-hot salsa. The Twilight Zone? No, it's the latest technology pilot from Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.

While trials are taking place at only three of the supermarket chain's 334 stores, Stop & Shop is aiming to do nothing less than revolutionize the weekly shopping trip. The technology works like this: A shopper starts by scanning a loyalty card over a bar-code reader on the grocery cart's computer, which Stop & Shop calls "the shopping buddy." The computer connects wirelessly to the store's intranet to get a list of past purchases. It also connects to a global positioning system to map the shopper's progress through the store. That way, the buddy can pick the right time to pop up with that salsa promo.

The buddy is also a line-buster. Customers can order from the deli counter while they're a couple of aisles away, so the food will be ready when they arrive. The computer's scanner even allows customers to pay for goods and bypass the checkout altogether. There are some bugs to be worked out. But it's time to get ready for a new shopping experience. By Faith Arner

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