Case Study: Agilysys Makes A Giant Leap Toward Wireless Shopping

Grocery chain uses scanners, handhelds and kiosks to free customers from the drudgery of waiting in checkout lines.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

October 27, 2005

4 Min Read

Imagine dashing into the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner, and doing so without having to wait in long, slow checkout lines.

This month, Giant Food Stores opened its first Giant Super Food Store in Camp Hill, Pa., working with solution provider Agilysys, Mayfield Heights, Ohio, to bring grocery shoppers a swift, wireless alternative to the drudgery of waiting in checkout lines.

Agilysys teamed with IBM, St. Clair Interactive Communications and Symbol Technologies on the project.

The Camp Hill Giant Food Store has 72 wireless Symbol PS3050 handheld computing devices available to customers, and the project’s success is evidence that supermarkets are offering solution providers a wide array of opportunities as many grocery chains are moving to make wireless technology an integral part of the shopping experience.

After registering at customer service, customers begin their wireless shopping by swiping a bonus card in front of a sensor. This activates the storage rack for the personal shopper devices.

Customers then take the handheld device and scan and bag items while shopping. To pay for their purchases, customers proceed to special self-checkout kiosks and scan the bonus card once again to pull up their list of purchases.

The store also has several multifunction Anyplace Kiosks from Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM and MiniScan (MS) 3207 scanners from Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol that allow shoppers to preorder from the deli or bakery section.

The main challenge for solution provider Agilysys in implementing the project was working out a way to integrate Symbol’s shopper application with Giant’s POS system software. The personal shopper device runs on software by WaveWorks and accesses a SQL database.

“It’s challenging because you’re dealing with a retailer’s POS system, which is their revenue, so you have to do a lot of validation testing to verify that the sales that are generating from the handhelds are getting processed correctly,” said solution specialist James Barron, project lead.

“The system, [which] is a virtual cash register, is being carried around the store by the customers,” Barron said. “Also, the retailer uses a self-checkout solution and we needed to integrate various pieces of the personal shopper system into the self-checkouts that Giant uses.”

Keeping the units connected to the store’s wireless infrastructure also presented a challenge for Agilysys, but after five months of integration and testing, and an additional six to eight weeks of testing in the store, the system is running smoothly, Barron said.

“The key thing about Giant is that this is the most complete range of self-service offerings that’s ever been packaged together,” said Doug Peter, president of St. Clair Interactive Communications, Toronto, an infrastructure software development company. “The fact that they have a large number of customer-facing devices in the store is a good story for IBM and Symbol, but the real thing here is the breadth of the services offered.”

Giant is pleased with the end result.

“This was a concept store for us. There were a lot of different ideas that we threw into this,” said Nick Montepara, vice president of retail operations at Giant. “The whole focus of many of the things we’ve introduced into this store is about generating greater customer convenience.”

The grocery store trained all of its employees on how to operate the devices, and so far, the biggest problem is keeping up with customer demand.

“It accents where people are going. The advent of the Internet makes people become more tech savvy in their own way,” Montepara said. “It puts more control into the hands of their customers. Equally, it affords them greater convenience.”

“The nice part about working with Agilysys is, because they support our POS system, we were able to integrate it into our existing store environment,” he said.

“For our company, obviously we hope this is a reusable model, and we hope that other types of retailers will see the benefit of this,” said Aaron Hagler, director of marketing, server sales, at Agilysys.

Agilysys has also developed personal shopper systems for Food Lion’s Bloom markets in Charlotte, N.C.

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