Following the launch of the Digital Retail Innovations 2016 Report (sponsored by Webloyalty) a series of Q&As with the leading figures behind some of the key entries in the report are being published.
Here is a Q&A with Ricardo Silva, chief marketing officer of wiiGO, which is placed at number 7 in the report’s International Innovations table.
1.How did the original idea come about?
It all started from a personal need felt by Luís de Matos, our CEO, who’s been in a wheelchair since the age of 14. Every time he went shopping he had to push a shopping cart while driving his own wheelchair. The alternative was to carry his purchases on his lap, which was obviously uncomfortable. With a background in Computer Science and Engineering he felt that technology could do a lot better for people with reduced mobility. This inspired his final course project at the University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, and led to the creation of Follow Inspiration in 2012.
2.What has been the level of take-up of the service and what are the key ways retailers are using it?
We’ve spent the last three years developing and improving the wiiGO. We wanted to make it simple and intuitive for everyone to use. We’re now having the first demonstrations in a real environment, collecting feedback from both retailers and their customers. That will allow us not only to evaluate the customer’s satisfaction when using the wiiGO but also to hear from retailers about additional services that can eventually be integrated in the next versions of the wiiGO. Retailers are increasingly concerned about improving the customer’s in-store experience, while reinforcing the adoption of technology within their stores. That’s precisely where the wiiGO stands out – a self-driven shopping cart for people with reduced mobility, but that can be used by everyone, regardless of their physical condition.
3.What about competition in this area?
There have been a couple of projects for self-driven shopping carts. None of them is in the market yet, which may explain how hard it is to develop this technology for such an unpredictable environment as a supermarket. The wiiGO is the first patented, self-driven shopping cart to be implemented in stores. It will mean a huge improvement in the customer’s in-store experience and it will change the paradigm of mobility in commercial surfaces.
Obviously, competitors will come. And that will be absolutely positive, competition always means opportunities! At the end of the day, it will hopefully be good for the industry of robotics, as the use of this technology will be boosted, and it will be great for people with reduced mobility, as they finally will be seen and treated as a priority. More and more solutions will be available for them, improving the way they shop and the way they interact with technology.
4.How has the solution been developed / advanced over time?
In the last three years of development many changes were performed in the wiiGO. We first started with an adapted shopping cart for a proof of concept. Not surprisingly, we had to develop an exclusive structure, bearing in mind the needs of people with reduced mobility. We also wanted to give the wiiGO the possibility of having additional services in the near future, and that is one of the reasons why the wiiGO has an integrated display.
5.Have there been any surprises along the way?
There are always surprises when it comes to technology development, especially when working in a startup. They’re part of the way they teach and help us to improve. Above all the surprises we had, the most “surprising” one was the moment we first went into supermarkets for the first tests. People were very curious, also very suspicious about “the cart that kept following everyone around”. Then they wanted to be part of the experience, offering themselves up to test the wiiGO. The wiiGO moved a long way from the moment we started developing it – from the design to the components, almost everything changed – or instead, got improved.
6.What can we expect from wiiGO in the future?
We’re already looking for the second version of the wiiGO Retail. We want retailers and their customers to get the most out of the wiiGO. We’re working on great improvements for the wiiGO, so that in a near future the wiiGO can leave the store premises and follow the customer outdoors. Wouldn’t it be great?
Further services can, and shall, be integrated in the wiiGO. That is going to be part of the synergic relationship we’re looking forward to have with retailers. We want to have them onboard with us and have them sharing their vision for the future of the wiiGO.
In parallel, we’re developing the wiiGO version for airports, to ease the transportation of luggage, and for a version to be implemented in industry, to improve the transportation of tools in assembly lines and heavy objects in warehouses.
7.Do you have any recommendations for entries in the next Digital Retail Innovations report?
I’m curious about the field of IoT as applied to retail, I’d love to learn more about the potential of connected devices to enhance the shopping experience. I’ve no doubts that IoT in retail will have a great economic impact in the upcoming years.
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