Although in the last two years we have gotten used to using grocery delivery services, consumers aren't giving up physical shopping just yet. Whether it's to choose the best fruits, see what's in stock, save shipping fees or avoid having to wait at home for hours on end for the courier, there are still many reasons that people don’t want to grocery shop online. But the second you have to wait in a dreaded line, you forget why you didn't just do it all from the comfort of your own home.
One of the companies that is trying to bring shopping without the need of a cashier is Shopic, and today (Tuesday) they announced the completion of a Series B fundraising round for $35 million. Qualcomm's investment fund, Qualcomm Ventures, led the round with participation from Vintage Investment, Clal Insurance, IBI Tech Fund, Tal Ventures, Claridge Israel and Shufersal.
Add it onto the cart instead of installing cameras and sensors
The concept of checkout-free shopping is not new, but we haven't seen too many places with it implemented. Shopic, on the other hand, wants to take an existing store and convert it into a store by using a device that is put on every standard shopping cart, instead of covering the store with expensive cameras and sensors.
Shopic’s system knows how to accurately identify products that shoppers put in or take out of their shopping carts. In addition, the system allows retailers to communicate with their customers while shopping in the store in a way that is customized for each customer; the system helps understand customers’ buying behaviours, how the store is run, and also offers personalized deals on the cart’s display. Unlike other smart cart solutions, Shopic’s device is pulled out at the end of the process in the store and left on the shelf, so you can take the cart to your car.
In a conversation with Geektime, Eran Kravitz, CTO and co-founder of Shopic, said that in the last year the company implemented, among other things, a mechanism that enables fast and automatic payment in the cart itself using a stored credit, so you don’t even need to whip out your wallet to pay.
Shopic was founded in 2014 by Raz Golan, Eran Kravitz and Dan Bendler, who served as the company's CEO but has since retired. So far, the company has raised $56 million and employs approximately 75 employees in its offices in Tel Aviv, with a small number of employees in the United States and Latin America. The company's previous fundraising round was completed in 2021, in which it raised $10 million.
Who will Shufersal choose?
Shufersal, the Israeli grocery giant, is an expected yet interesting player in Shopic’s latest funding round. Though they have already collaborated with Shopic last year, they also chose to use Edgify's platform to identify fruits and vegetables without barcodes at self-service checkouts. Moreover, they have looked into Trigo's solution, that makes supermarkets autonomous in the Amazon Go style. It seems that Shufersal is trying to test all the Israeli solutions in its branches before it is ready to commit to just one. It will be interesting to see which of the Israeli, or foreign, companies will become the star in all the branches of the largest grocery chain in Israel – if at all.
Kravitz claims that the problem that all these startups and others are trying to solve is the same, but the solutions are completely different: "Each store format requires a solution that is accurate for it. We welcome and are happy about the competition these companies generate and the buzz it creates in the market, as it only reinforces the fact that there is a problem here that needs to be solved. Our specialization is in medium and large stores, and we have a uniqueness about us, both at the product level and technology levels as our accuracy is high. According to him, unlike the competitors, Shopic is already in the rollout stages, and not just a POC.
"One of our significant advantages is the ability to produce compact computer vision models that run on limited hardware and still know how to accurately differentiate between tens of thousands of products. Creating a computer vision model that differentiates between a dog, a cat and a bird is something that every student today knows how to do, it is no longer special. But to differentiate between 10,000, or 20,000 or 50,000 classes in a fraction of a second, purely based on visual characteristics and without relying on barcode scanning – and all this on modest hardware and not on a massive server – is already a much bigger challenge.” When I ask him about the economic differences for the end users (the supermarkets), he claims that Trigo's solution is significantly more expensive than Shopic’s. "We built it for large stores and not for convenience stores for which a solution like Trigo's is suitable, therefore it is cheaper than any other vision-based solutions." He also said that after half a year of activity at a Shufersal branch, the smart-cart users increased their total spending by about 13%.