Meant for convenience and other small store formats, the square-shaped device sits on a counter and shoppers place items in it. Using five built-in cameras along with computer recognition and artificial intelligence, the Counter recognizes all of the items and tallies up the cost. Customers then use a mobile payment system or credit cart to purchase the items and go.
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven demand for more contactless payment options to reduce human-to-human contact in retail. Caper’s pitch to retailers is that its cashierless solution is easier to set up and running than other players on the market. While competitors like Grabango and Zippin require cameras and sensors to be installed around a store, Caper moves all of its cashierless smarts into smaller devices like shopping carts and now the Counter, so there’s no need for an expensive full store retrofit.
Caper’s move comes at a time when the smart shopping cart space is getting crowded. Companies like Veeve, Tracxpoint, and SAI all offer similar functionality to Caper’s cart. And, not for nothing, Amazon recently announced that it has developed its own Dash smart shopping cart and is looking to license out its cashierless checkout tech to other retailers.
When I spoke with Caper Founder and CEO Lindon Gao last week about the Counter and competition in the smart cart space, he was not that concerned. “A couple of main advantages is that we have a hardware and supply chain in China,” Gao said. “We’re already integrated with a lot of these retailers, and being not Amazon certainly helps.”
The Caper Counter is also indicative of the ways technology is making convenience stores more convenient. C-stores are actually a nice proving ground for technologies like cashierless checkout because they are smaller and stock fewer items. They are also stores that people don’t want to spend a lot of time in, so technology that gets people in and out quickly will find a receptive audience.
Gao said that right now the Caper Counter is already in use at several locations with an undisclosed national-level convenience brand partner. Caper wouldn’t reveal specific pricing for its Counter, saying that there is one model where the store pays for the hardware as well as a software fee, with costs dependent on the size of deployment.