First Look: Mars Wrigley's Smiley ShopRite Candy Robot

Lisa Johnston
Editor-in-Chief, CGT
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The robots are here, and they come bearing candy.

Mars Wrigley has deployed a snack-toting robot, known as Smiley, at a ShopRite store in Monroe, NY. The bot is topped with such treats as Snickers, M&Ms and Orbit gum, and leverages LiDAR self-driving technology to detect people and objects in its proximity while roaming the store.

Built-in software monitors the data from its LiDAR sensor, and when a shopper gets within about 4 feet of the robot, Smiley reacts with sounds and notices on its display.

The Monroe store, which has also served as a test site for other innovations like scan-and-go shopping carts, was selected because it recently underwent a remodel and has wider aisles and a layout expected to be conducive to the initial feasibility of the test, Matt Tice, category leadership director at Mars Wrigley, told RIS.

Smiley currently collects data around traffic and the number, type, and duration of engagements, and it will soon be able to capture insights in order to enhance the in-store shopping experience. The companies teamed with robotics provider Savioke in its development.

The pilot is expected to help Mars better understand the role of robotics in enhancing consumers’ in-store shopping experience and the way they interact with its products beyond the checkout aisle — “especially as it relates to re-imagining impulse purchases and the future of retail,” said Tice.

For Wakefern, one of the goals of its innovation team is to establish relationships with their innovation counterparts at its consumer goods partners, and the Smiley Robot opportunity arose out of discussions between Mars Wrigley's Launchpad and Wakefern's EDGE teams, Wakefern CIO Cheryl Williams told RIS.

The retailer has identified three prominent learning themes from this effort, she noted, including co-experimentation with a partner, how retail associates and consumers interact with an autonomous mobile robot, and whether there’s an alternative merchandising channel for its front-end impulse offerings.

“The joint innovation teams continue to operate with an agile mindset meeting weekly to discuss new ideas and to review previous results and data,” she added.

Though Mars is exploring ways to extend learnings from Smiley and determine how it can leverage the tech further, Tice said, future plans are not confirmed and are highly dependent on the learnings uncovered during this pilot.

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