Price Check on Aisle 3: Grocers Use A.I., Devices to Battle Amazon

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in 2011, according to Pew—consumers seem to want the store experience to mimic that of e-commerce, at least in some ways. Used to the sort of “if you liked this, you’ll like that” prompts that appear on sites like Amazon.com, shoppers are increasingly expecting that sort of personalized service in stores as well.

“When they shop online, they have all of this product information: ratings, recommendations,” says Sussman of Aila Tech. “They don’t get that information in the aisle.”

Aila’s kiosks and scanners can bridge that gap, he adds. Supermarket employees use the handheld scanners to get real-time access to inventory and product nutritional information. When shoppers order online, employees use the scanners to quickly find and gather each item on the shopping list for pickup in increasingly popular “click and collect” programs, Sussman says.

Aila places kiosks at deli counters and in wine aisles at its customers’ stores. “In the deli line, it gives grocers tremendous data about the turnaround time for orders, the demand at the deli counter over time, and details on which products are popular,” Sussman says.

Wine kiosks serves as an “e-sommelier,” he adds, that can provide recommendations based on food or make recommendations based on previous purchases using a loyalty program. “A bottle of wine elevates the value of a [shopping] cart by $10 plus the bottle of wine,” Sussman explains. “If they’re buying wine, they’re usually buying other high-value items like cheese and olives to pair with the wine.”

Aila was founded in 2010 as Padloc and today counts as customers retailers such as ShopRite and Giant Foods. The company has raised about $5.6 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase.

Like their more general retail counterparts, grocers are undergoing a culture change in adopting new technologies. Sussman says he believes that Aila’s focus on using the iOS system—a technology that’s very familiar to most people as Apple consumers—as a foundation for its devices helps make this tech transition smoother.

“There’s a lot of conversation about really cool innovative futuristic technology,” Sussman says. “But there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage current, proven tech to bring digital in-store.”

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