March 29, 2000 11:50 AM PST

Handheld product scanner assists Web shopping

PlanetRx.com is selling a new handheld device that lets shoppers scan household products to speed the checkout process online.

The online drugstore today launched ScanCart Shopping--a program for time-pressed shoppers who are looking to refill necessities through the Web. The shopping service hinges on consumers buying and using the CS 2000 Consumer Memory Scanner, which is made by Symbol Technologies and sells on PlanetRx for $159. Once at home, shoppers point the palm-sized scanner at an almost-empty shampoo bottle, deodorant or detergent, and it reads the bar codes, much like how checkout technology works at grocery stores.

PlanetRx.com, based in South San Francisco, Calif., said it is the first e-commerce company to offer such a service to shoppers. Representatives for Symbol said that PlanetRx is leading a pack of Internet companies that plan to offer similar devices to their shoppers. In addition, at least one other company has been working on a similar device, including San Francisco-based Xenote.

PlanetRx's new service comes as the online drugstore struggles to capture additional customers and investor interest. Earlier this year, PlanetRx said it became the exclusive online drugstore for managed-care provider CCN, in a move to increase its share of the lucrative online pharmacy business. However, stock in the company, as well as in other drugstores, has languished in recent months, trading well below its offering price.

"By offering ScanCart Shopping we have married the physical shopping experience with the virtual shopping experience, which saves our customers' time when shopping online," said William J. Razzouk, chief executive of PlanetRx.com.

Once shoppers have installed a Java plug-in and set up an account on the ScanCart page, they can upload the products they've scanned to the site. If the items are available, they can checkout immediately. The scanner works with all products that have bar codes, excluding prescriptions. PlanetRx used technology from JavaSoft, RSA Security and Symbol Technologies to create the ScanCart service; the device is developed by Symbol.

Representatives for PlanetRx said the company carries about 28,000 products, including prescriptions, and has about 537,000 registered shoppers.

Symbol Technologies, established in 1975, specializes in wireless and Internet-based scanning technologies and sells its products to traditional retail outlets, such as grocery stores and parcel delivery services including United Parcel Service.

 

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