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In the down economy, the focus of many marketers has shifted from customer acquisition to customer retention, so loyalty programs have come to the fore. While smartphones are one vehicle for perpetrating such programs, 70% of consumers still don’t have one, and even by the end of 2011, market penetration is not projected to top 50%. Smart shopping carts can flash discounts and suggest purchases based on a customer’s history. While some shoppers might find it creepy, many will find it’s like GPS — you won’t be able to remember what life was like before them.

At this point we've seen so many variations on the "smart shopping cart" concept bubble up and fail we're pretty jaded, but the latest version, from Electronic Data Systems, seems like it almost maybe has a chance. Unlike previous concepts, the EDS model is built around the humble bar code: swiping items as you place them in your cart lets you keep a running tally of nutritional information, ethical sourcing, and environmental impact, letting you modify your purchasing decisions simply and quickly. Keeping it simple might be the winning strategy here, but we're not going to be convinced until the carts at our local can do more than just veer straight left.

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