Retail AI solution provider Shopic, founded in 2015 by Raz Golan and Eran Kravitz, is on a mission to provide the “best shopping experience possible in the physical grocery store.”
In July, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company raised $10 million in equity funding—bringing the total amount it has raised to $21 million—to help take its latest innovation, a smart device that clips on to any standard shopping cart tracking and tallying items that go in and out of the cart, to grocery chains worldwide. While Golan couldn’t share what U.S. retailers Shopic is currently working with, he did say its devices have been deployed with Shufersal, Israel’s leading supermarket chain, and “that next year we’ll start to see more robust, larger rollouts to more and more stores. Then, in the years after, really chainwide expansions.”
WGB spoke with co-founder Raz Golan about how the smart device goes beyond helping shoppers skip the checkout process by further streamlining the shopping journey through personalization and contextualized promotions.
Kristina Hurtig: For our readers who maybe haven't heard of Shopic and its smart cart device, how does it work and how does it differ from the smart cart they might be most familiar with—the Amazon Dash Cart?
Raz Golan: The biggest differentiation between Shopic and other companies is our very operationally driven approach. We believe that grocery stores are one of the most well-optimized businesses in the world, and we want to create, or basically to digitalize, the entire retail front end, but we want to do that without changing this very delicate operational overhead that these stores have. …
We base our solution not on a whole cart … but rather on a clip-on device that connects to any standard shopping cart. And while it’s connected to the cart, the cart becomes a smart cart. In the device, we have cameras and very powerful computer-vision processors, and basically the cameras see everything that’s going in or out of the carts and detects automatically whatever is going on. We allow customers to bag their items as they shop. We show them a running total, pricing, promotions, coupons—basically becoming a new marketing channel for the retailer and for them, the shoppers. And first and foremost, and most importantly, allowing [the shoppers] to check out without waiting in line and in a matter of seconds.
And for the retailer, what are the advantages to having a clip-on device vs. a whole cart that's smart?
First, the costs—they don't have to replace their shopping carts. Second, we don't require any changes in the store layouts. The fact that we have our processing happening on the device itself and doesn't require any installation of servers, or cameras on the ceiling, or sensors on the shelves. Everything is happening within our device and that's it. So, they don't need to change anything. …
In terms of operation, the device always remains in-store because the shoppers get it when they enter the store, they connect it to the shopping cart, do their shopping journey, but they return the device as part of the checkout process. … Because they bagged their stuff as they shopped, they can leave the store with everything bagged. So, it doesn't require them to change a shopping cart. For example, like you see [with the] Dash Cart. … What happens there that is very interesting is that when you finish the checkout process with the Dash Cart, you have to move your bags into a normal cart in order to take it outside to the car. So, we don't require retailers to do that. …
Second, is the marketing channel. … When you enter an e-commerce website, the retailer knows that you're there from the moment you enter the website. At a physical store, there's this black hole that retailers don't know that you're there until the moment you get to the point-of-sale. And even there, if they don't have a loyalty program, they don't even know who you are. So, this new marketing channel that they get is so invaluable because we open a whole new world of communication throughout the shopping journey, which in a supermarket can be an hour or even more. So, it's a huge upsell, cross-sell communication opportunity.
And thirdly, we use our device basically as a smart sensor. … We measure everything that we can, from things about the shopping behavior of the shoppers; where did they go around the store; produce heat maps, shopping journeys; and what items they inserted into the cart and removed, so they didn't buy, and see if maybe there is a problem with these items in the store. But also for the retailer itself to operate their store more efficiently, things like stock levels on the shelves, our devices can look outwards and to the sides and basically map the store as [the shoppers] walk around … and many more things. To conclude, it's the new shopping experience, the new marketing channel and a whole lot of new insights and analytics on the store itself.
Can we talk a bit more about the checkout experience? How does it work, and how do shoppers pay?
It's very flexible. The ultimate experience that we offer is a really quick one. The shoppers log in to the service with their credit/debit card, Apple Pay or whatever payment method they choose. At the moment they are ready to pay, they pay on the device itself, return it and leave the store. So, it's a like two-second process. But some of our retail customers choose to ask the customers to go to a payment kiosk, transfer their transaction to the kiosk and then pay physically with cash or card. So, it's open for both options.
We hear a lot about customers wanting frictionless and touchless experiences, especially as we continue to fight COVID. How important do you think it is for retailers to offer these services today?
I think it's very important. COVID is one aspect, but a second aspect is companies like Amazon—you know, the gorillas of the industry—entering the physical space, which is something that is relatively new and basically causing the gap between online and offline experience to become much smaller and create a hybrid experience in-store, which is taking the main advantages from the online experience and bringing it to the offline world. This and COVID creates a huge need for these kinds of experiences [in addition to] the operational efficiencies and all the benefits that we've talked about that [retailers] can gain from bringing such solutions to their stores.
What's some of the feedback you've been receiving from your retail partners so far?
A very interesting thing that we see from real customers using our solution is the age range or the variety of shoppers that are interested and are [repeatedly] using our solution. The thing about supermarkets is that everyone goes to the supermarket so when you build a new shopping experience, you have to address it to everyone. So, we are very happy to see that even the elderly shoppers are really enjoying this new shopping experience. Secondly, I think that [retailers are] really happy to see the engagement level throughout the shopping journey—the fact that shoppers love to see their pricing and to get offers about promotions and say that it really improves their shopping experience.
How do promotions generate on Shopic’s smart cart device and how does that feed into shoppers’ desires for personalization?
From a very simple push notification. For example, if you take a bottle of Sprite, insert into the cart, it will tell you to take another one and you'll get the third one for free. You get a sound, a visual notification, all the way to much more advanced notifications based on similar shoppers to you, your personal shopping history, a recipe that you like to shop, maybe offerings for similar products that are cheaper or alternatives that you may want to try. It's both personalization and also contextualization, because we know who you are so we can personalize it, but we know where you are and when you are at this place inside the store. So, if you're at a specific aisle, we can send you promotions and offers that are very relevant to your specific location. …
In general, we’re eager to provide the best shopping experience possible in the physical grocery store. That's the most important thing for us and to do it as a win-win for both shoppers and retailers.