The IDEO shopping cart (1998) wasn’t a failure, the concept was just ahead of its time
I remember writing a blog post about another IDEO concept: Shimano Coasting. Their concept was supposed to make cycling attractive for the masses, but it eventually got dropped, what led my to question about the possible reasons for this failure. This post, is about a well-documented IDEO case: a shopping cart developped in 1998, that obviously didn’t make it to the stores… or did it? Actually it did, it just has been picked up more than a decade later, and it’s being rolled out here in France. Not by IDEO.
If you watched the video, you easily understand what their concept was all about: safety for kids, modularity while shopping, easy handling and facilitated check-out. Even though the concept seems appealing to people in stores (see the end of the video), it hasn’t appeared in any store on a large scale at all. “It needs a little refining, but I thing it’s great, says the saleswoman from Whole Foods in the video, we would want them!“.
But why didn’t anyone use them on the large scale? I found a blog post and even a question on Quora that ask ‘What happened to the IDEO shopping cart?‘. Yann Gourvennec argues on his blog that the target clients of this concept might not have been well-defined: shoppers? Retail stores? I think it’s was a communication initiative and that there was no real market demand for it . After all, it has been commissioned by the TV-channel ABC for its show The Deep Dive, and not by an actual retailer… In the post’s comments, Yann Gourvennec says:
And indeed, similar shopping carts are currently being rolled out in some French supermarkets. Carrefour, the world second-largest retail chain, is on a quest of ‘reinventing the supermarket’ (see this article [French]), and design is a major constituent of their strategy.
This is why they hired the former VP of design of sports giant Decathlon, now Oxylane, where he did a remarquable job in both innovation and branding (read Carrefour’s Global VP of Design about branding, design and innovation). The new carts that Carrefour uses today don’t come from IDEO, who patented them, but they are basically like the IDEO concept. These are the carts that they have at my local Carrefour Market:
After a little bit of research, I found that these were designed and produced by the Italian company Plastimark, who started selling them in 2002. “First [Carrefour’s] customers were baffled by Plastimark carts, but they immediately loved them” we can read on their promotional material. I think they’re ugly, but they’re damn good to navigate in the narrow isles of city-stores, and they’re 100% recyclable. Plastimark also says that they’re less costly since they don’t break as often as current carts – cost effectiveness was also an advantage of IDEO ‘s concept.
I never thought I would make an entire blog post about shopping carts, but the point is: IDEO had the right idea back in 1998, they were just ahead of their time. The very same concept appears today, and seems that it makes sense for shoppers. Retailers also roll-out self-scanning devices which have an ever-growing acceptance in supermarkets, that’s why I thing IDEO’s concept was visionary and I wouldn’t describe its non-adoption as a failure (even though commercially it probably was one). And who knows, maybe one day a majority of bikes will be similar to the Coasting concept !?
Edit (January 28th): Thank you Barry, who shared an interesting link from designboom: “The (all american) history of shopping (carts)“. An interesting article with lots of illustration As Barry says:
Some things never change!