Skip to Content

How the Modiv Shopper Works

Using data mined from consumers to target advertising on the spot.
October 20, 2009

Grocery stores in the United States and elsewhere have gotten customers used to carrying “loyalty cards” that track their shopping habits in exchange for in-store discounts. The Modiv Shopper, made by Modiv Media of Quincy, MA, takes things one step further. Customers using the device, which works with the store card, can save time by scanning and bagging their own groceries as they shop. Meanwhile, it displays advertising and offers electronic coupons for instant savings, all chosen according to the customer’s purchasing history and location in the store. Introduced in July 2007, the Modiv Shopper is now used in 260 stores. The company says customers who use it spend $7 more per trip–and visit the store 10 percent more often–than they would otherwise. Modiv makes its money by licensing and developing its system for retailers and by collecting advertising revenue whenever an offer is displayed.

A. Scanner
The Shopper uses a Motorola MC17 handheld computer running Windows Embedded CE (an operating system designed for low-power devices) and software designed by Modiv. Customers scan their store card to check out a device before beginning their shopping and then use the Shopper to scan the bar code of each item they select. Before they leave, they scan a bar code near a self-­service register and rescan their store card. The list of items in the cart is transmitted to the register, where the customer pays.

B. Radio Module
A radio chip inside the Shopper communicates with Wi-Fi hot spots around the store, triangulating with them to orient itself. (Wi-Fi is more reliable than GPS indoors.) By creating an internal map of the locations where the scanned items are stocked, the device is able to deliver coupons at appropriate points in a shopping trip.

C. Browser Application
Wi-Fi radio enables the device not only to deduce its location but also to receive data stored on central servers in the store. The customer interacts with the device through a Web application built by Modiv.

D. Display
A full-color LCD display allows customers to scroll through a list of items currently in the cart and to view coupons and advertisements for nearby items on the shelf.

E. Data Mining
Each time customers use their store card, information is collected about the shopping trip. Modiv uses the aggregate data to spot shopping trends, and it uses the specific data to tailor promotions to the individual shopper. For example, a soda company might offer coupons to someone who normally buys from its competitor. Other offers might be triggered in real time by a customer’s actions. Scanning a pack of hot dogs, say, might prompt a coupon for buns.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

computation concept
computation concept

How AI is reinventing what computers are

Three key ways artificial intelligence is changing what it means to compute.

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

We reviewed three at-home covid tests. The results were mixed.

Over-the-counter coronavirus tests are finally available in the US. Some are more accurate and easier to use than others.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.