by Divina Paredes

Foodstuffs to trial AI shopping platform by Kiwi startup IMAGR

Feb 14, 2018
Big DataBusiness IntelligenceCareers

Foodstuffs is working with Auckland-based artificial intelligence company IMAGR for the launch of SMARTCART to Four Square Ellerslie.

The Auckland store will be the flagship Foodstuffs retail outlet to trial SMARTCART, a computer vision technology that recognises products as soon as they are placed in a shopping cart.This will remove the need for barcode scanning, checkouts and queueing.

SMARTCART applies machine learning technology to identify the patterns in a customer’s behaviour and make suggestions for recipes as well as guiding users around the store, based on their product choices.

Brick and mortar retailers must embrace AI technologies to enhance consumer experiences and ensure they lead the field in what they offer, says Peter Muggleston, chief information officer at Foodstuffs North Island.

The work with IMAGR will take the co-op’s offering to the next level, he adds.

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This will take Foodstuffs’ offering to the next level Peter Muggleston, Foodstuffs North Island

“This technology will give consumers more options, reduced wait times and variety during their store visits, giving our staff more time to offer their advice and help in other ways,” says Muggleston, in a statement.

Foodstuffs North Island Limited (FSNI) was created from the merger of the Auckland and Wellington co-operatives behind New Zealand’s largest food, grocery and wholesale retailer. Its brands include Four Square, New World, PAK’nSAVE and Gilmours.

Related: Aggressive retailers are using algorithms to beat the competition, reports Gartner

IMAGR founder William Chomley says Foodstuffs is the first retailer they are partnering with for the technology.

“This is the first significant step in enhancing the way we do our shopping here in New Zealand and abroad,” says. “It’s great to see Foodstuffs embracing technology like this to empower customer experiences.”

To activate SMARTCART, shoppers will download an app and link a payment method to their account. In store, they pair their smartphone with the shopping cart. As they add products to their cart, the items appear on their phone’s virtual basket. This will remove traditional barcode scanning and the checkout process altogether.

Chomley conceptualised SMARTCART two years ago to improve convenience and help eliminate the frustration that comes with queuing at the checkout.In November, IMAGR received a significant investment from Sage Technologies to accelerate the development of SMARTCART.

Personalisation and convenience are becoming industry normsWilliam Chomley, IMAGR

IMAGR has grown to a team of 12, with artificial intelligence (AI) specialists from around the world working on the technology from its Auckland headquarters.

“Personalisation and convenience are becoming industry norms, bricks and mortar is no exception, people want ease of access to products and to bypass queues,” says Chomley.

“We’re focused on creating a hyper-personalised in-store experience that also includes an ‘alternative’ method for checking out. SMARTCART provides another payment solution to retailers’ normal checkout and self-service offerings.

SMARTCART can also help with inventory management, cost reduction and analytics and IMAGR is working on effective ways to deliver tailored promotions to customers as they shop.

The company says it is talking to retailers in Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and America, and is aiming for significant user-adoption at three of the world’s leading retailers by 2022.

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