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by Simon Lord

last updated 27/02/2018

Foodstuffs to trial artificial intelligence shopping

by Simon Lord

last updated 27/02/2018

14 February 2018 – Shoppers at a suburban Four Square franchise will be the first in the world to trial new artificial intelligence technology that brings the checkout to the trolley
Imagr founder William Chomley with Foodstuffs North Island CIO Peter Muggleston at Four Square Ellerslie, the first New Zealand store set to experience Imagr's AI technology.

Auckland-based artificial intelligence company Imagr announced today that it’s upping the grocery game by launching its innovative shopper solution Smartcart at Four Square Ellerslie. The move comes as retailers around the globe look for ways to give consumers more streamlined options for shopping, including the recent launch of Amazon Go in Seattle.

Four Square is part of the New Zealand-owned Foodstuffs franchise group that includes Pak’nSave, New World, Liquorland, On The Spot and others, as well as the 240-strong Four Square Chain.

Four Square Ellerslie will be the flagship Foodstuffs retail outlet to trial the Smartcart computer vision technology. This recognises products as soon as they are placed in a shopping cart, eliminating the need for barcode scanning, checkouts and queueing. The technology also allows shoppers to set a budget and be alerted if they go over their chosen amount.

First in the world

‘We’re delighted Foodstuffs is the first retailer in the world that we’re partnering with to make this happen. This is the first significant step in enhancing the way we do our shopping here in New Zealand and abroad,’ says Imagr founder William Chomley. ‘It’s great to see Foodstuffs embracing technology like this to empower customer experiences.’

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

Smartcart is the brainchild of Chomley, who started conceptualising a solution two years ago to improve convenience and help eliminate the frustration that comes with queuing at the checkout.  Since then, 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.

The current retail landscape calls for bricks and mortar retailers to find more efficient ways to deliver tailored, frictionless experiences and Chomley says Smartcart is the answer.

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

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.  

The advantages for retailers don’t stop there - 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.

Bricks & Mortar retailing ‘must embrace Articial Intelligence’

Foodstuffs North Island Chief Information Officer Peter Muggleston says bricks and mortar retailers must embrace AI technologies to enhance consumer experiences and ensure they lead the field in what they offer. Muggleston explains Foodstuffs decision to work with Imagr is one that will take the co-op’s offering to the next level.

‘We’re committed to giving Kiwi shoppers the best service, experiences and innovation. 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.

Ellerslie Four Square was named Store of the Year at the 2017 Foodstuffs North Island awards. Franchisee Lin Guo was commended for taking every opportunity to get involved and learn, as well as being involved in lots of training outside the store. Now the suburban 200 sqm store will be at the forefront of the latest in retail technology.

Once the technology is up and running, ‘We’ll be encouraging everyone to come down to the store to give Smartcart a go and see first-hand how this user-friendly technology will have a positive impact on our lives,’ says Chomley.

While Foodstuffs is the first FMCG retailer in New Zealand to pilot Smartcart, momentum is building globally as Imagr is in talks with retailers in Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and America, aiming for significant user-adoption at three of the world’s leading retailers by 2022.

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