Sometimes an announcement of news is as important as the news itself. This is the case with the announcement today that grocery retailer Giant Eagle has partnered with Grabango and will implement the latter’s checkout-free shopping at its stores.
There weren’t a lot of details outside of the press release, so we don’t know where the technology has been installed or when consumers will actually be able to use it. But Grabango CEO Will Glaser told me by phone, “This is not a proof of concept. This is to show that the technology has already been through proof of concept and works with [Giant Eagle’s] operations.”
And this is where the announcement of the news is equally as important as the news itself. Grabango (gruh-BANG-go) is among a host of startups looking to retrofit existing grocery stores with checkout-free shopping experiences — that is, where shoppers walk into a store, pick out what they want and leave, getting charged automatically on their way out.
Grabango, which raised $12 million in January, uses a combination of lots of small cameras mounted on a store’s ceiling along with computer vision and AI to keep track of what a person is taking. The company also integrates with a store’s existing checkout systems so a shopper could either walk out and pay via app or just pay the total to a traditional cashier on their way out with a credit card or cash.
But so far only Grabango and Trigo Vision have named the retailers they are working with publicly. Grabango’s news follows Trigo Vision’s announcement last November that it would partner with Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal (and is rumored to be working with Tesco). The fact that these two retailers are now on the record with these partnerships highlights their confidence in those technologies and signals they are one step closer to actual and broader implementation.
As Albertsons VP of eCommerce, Trung Nguyen, said at Articulate, our food automation conference, grocers want technology solutions that already show they can work at scale. And big grocery chains are looking to implement this type of cashierless checkout innovation as Amazon continues to roll out its cashierless Go stores, and Walmart launched its fast lane checkout and high-tech IRL store, which features lots of cameras and computer vision for inventory management.
There are a lot of grocery stores around the world, so there probably won’t be a winner-take-all scenario for one cashierless checkout company. But Giant Eagle coming out and saying that it is partnering with Grabango and that its solution is ready for prime time is a big, well, Giant Eagle feather in Grabango’s cap.