Amazon Go certainly has the edge when it comes to how shops of the future should work. However, to make it happen, Go stores are built from scratch around the tech that allows it to happen. What if you didn’t have to?
That is what US start up Caper is hoping to pull off: making stores able to scan goods as they are taken off the shelf and put in the trolley so that the shopper can just pay and leave – all without a massive investment in new tech built into the fabric of the store.
Caper’s idea is not to load up the store with tech, rather to create a smart shopping cart that does the tech bit and which can work in any store, new or old, so long as it can take carts.
According to the video on Caper’s site, the trolley feature a screen, scanner and detection equipment to verify that nothing has been stolen and that the scanned goods have been put in the trolley.
So far so Amazon Go on a budget. Where it gets really cool, is that the smart trolley can help tell you what you need to buy – if you synch it with your shopping list app – and can guide you around the store to find what you want.
Once all that is done, it allows the shopper to pay at the trolley and go. The video ends with the happy Caper trolley user simply pushing their trolley of goods past all the old school shoppers wrestling their groceries on to the checkout conveyor.
The screen can also be used to interact with and advertise to shoppers while they are in the store, says the company.
"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," Caper’s founder and CEO, Lindon Gao, told the London Evening Standard this week. "We can enable the Amazon Go experience without the gigantic infrastructure. We cost less and we can do more."
So far the Caper carts are live in two stores in New York – and the company expects to roll out to 150 more during 2019. With the current version – that includes all the perks customers already love – shoppers simply scan the barcode before adding products to their cart. As customers shop, the company also collects and label images to help train Caper’s deep learning algorithm and enable the scan-less item identification experience that we will be launching within the upcoming year.
The stores using it also report an 18% uplift in basket value.
This sort of tech is the key to revamping stores. Offering ways to make stores more efficient to use and, especially for grocery, less of a chore, is vital. While Amazon Go clearly has the right idea, where Caper gets it right is that this is something that almost any retailer can use now, without having to undergo a massive and profound technology refit. It also turns the familiar shopping cart – something that all customers know all too well – and makes it better. No training required.
Whether Caper has also eradicated the ever-present wonky wheel remains to be seen.