Ever since Amazon opened the first AmazonGo store in Seattle, WA, that allows customers to walk in, pick items off the shelf, and then walkout without having to go through a checkout process with a cashier, grocery executives everywhere have been interested in the technology. Unfortunately for the grocery industry, Amazon owns the technology and thus far has shown no willingness to license the technology to other retailers.
Although I admire and respect Amazon for creating AmazonGo, I have stated in writing and at conferences that in many ways, AmazonGo is both overkill and underwhelming at the same time. The cost of the technology to enable an AmazonGo store is prohibitive to the average retailer. In addition, automating the checkout process in such small stores pales in comparison to the difficulty of duplicating the AmazonGo experience in a supermarket.
I have also made the argument that instead of grocery retailers chasing Amazon, they should instead step back and rethink the problem. Is the idea to remove cashiers or improve the customer experience? Removing cashiers will reduce the cost of operating a store but it doesn’t mean sales will increase. Customer enjoy shopping at specific grocery banners and few would abandon their favorite store just to shop at a retailer with no cashiers.
At a high-level, grocery shopping is fairly easy. Customers enter stores and push a grocery cart up and down aisles placing products they want to buy into the cart. Even if cashiers are removed from stores, customers still have to get the products they have placed inside the grocery cart into grocery bags and loaded into their cars. When customers arrive home, they carry the groceries inside their home.
Based on what I just described, instead of grocery retailers investing a small fortune on technology to remove cashiers from stores, why not instead select the easiest and most effective solution that will do both? Why not turn the grocery cart into the cashier?
Caper – The AI Powered Grocery Cart
According to a press release, Caper is the first AI-powered shopping cart that, using computer vision, lets grocery shoppers skip checkout lines. Shoppers can simply throw items into their Caper cart, and built-in sensors identify the items and tally a virtual basket. During the shopping journey, Caper helps shoppers discover in-store deals with its interactive screen. Once done, they can conveniently pay on the cart and leave the store.
Caper’s AI-powered shopping cart is a plug-and-play solution – no installation is required and no operational restructuring is needed. Store owners can put Caper carts in their stores and enable an automated checkout experience that complements their existing business. The Caper carts are live in 2 grocery chains, and have plans to roll out to 150 more in 2019. Caper is not a technology that only exists within a concept store.
The current launched version of Caper’s cart requires barcode scanning of each item on the cart – and it has already become the go-to technology for shoppers. Caper is leveraging the captured item image and the scanned item barcode to help train its deep learning algorithm and enable the scan-less drop-and-go experience. Caper not only streamlines checkout, but it also provides an interface to interact with shoppers and provide revenue driving opportunities for grocers with tailored recommendations designed to increase basket size.
In its launched stores, Caper has been able to increase average basket size by 18% by giving customers exposure to products they may overlook or unable to find.
Caper is in the process of testing the use of cameras and weight sensors in the carts to automatically recognize products when they’re added. This version of the shopping experience is currently being tested in two pilot stores.
A helpful feature of Caper is the use of a screen mounted on the front of the cart. The screen interfaces with the customer throughout the shopping experience by notifying the customer of products that have coupons, directing the customer to specific locations inside the store to find products using an in-store map, and confirming for the shopper that all of the items they wanted to purchase have been added to the cart.
The Caper smart cart come with grocery bags. This allows customers to effectively bag their own groceries as they shop. Once the customer has paid for the groceries using any number of payment methods, the customer can load the groceries into their car and depart.
Readers of my Forbes articles know that I like to recount stories of my time at Amazon. One of the things I found interesting at Amazon is that whenever an idea was presented, an executive would usually ask “What else?” In essence, in addition to the idea that was presented, is there anything else that the idea can be used for? It was a way of identifying additional opportunities sooner rather than later.
After I reviewed the smart cart by Caper, I too asked the question What else? This is what I came up with:
- I recommend that Caper partner with grocery retailers to enable them to do their own online order fulfillment and order picking using the smart cart. Caper can easily be integrated into platforms offered by Mi9, Mercatus, GrocerKey, Mercato and Farmstead to name a few. (With a few slight design changes, the smart cart would be capable of picking groceries automatically using robotic arms with little to no human assistance ).
- Caper can explore creating a powered version of its smart cart for use in stores to replenish shelves using robotic arms; think of this as a heavy duty smart cart.
- Caper should partner with Deliv (or another delivery company) to test the smart cart summoning a Deliv driver to arrive at a specific grocery location at exactly the right time to retrieve the groceries from the cart, load them into the Deliv car, and deliver the groceries to the customer. (At some point, it’s even possible that the smart cart could be powered to autonomously deliver groceries to customers within a specific radius around stores).
- To help pay for the carts, retailers could sell advertising to brands to market their products on the cart. (This is something I have written about in several articles focused on the grocery industry).
Frankly, I believe Caper can easily become an Instacart killer (by itself or with a strategic partner) by giving grocery retailers command and control over their online order fulfillment and last mile delivery needs with little to no additional labor for picking orders. An added benefit is that Caper can also provide a solution for removing cashiers from stores.
Think big, Caper. Think big.
Caper is the right product at the right time. Grocery retailers are looking for ways to reduce costs and increase the customer experience and Caper certainly can do both. Unlike AmazonGo which requires a massive amount of cameras and sensors to be mounted throughout a store (as well as a massive amount of capital), Caper enables the Amazon Go experience without the enormous infrastructure or costs.
Caper – the AmazonGo experience in a grocery cart.
Source: “Amazon Products” – Google News