Checkout-free technology might power the future of post-pandemic retail, thanks to companies such as Amazon and Israel’s Trigo. Both firms are developing AI and computer vision tech that allow customers to retrieve items from shelves and walk out of stores without spending time in long lines.
Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology has been the undisputed leader of this trend so far and is poised to go even further in 2021. Amazon announced early last year that it would start selling the technology behind its cashierless Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores to third-party retailers. Since then, Amazon has been testing its tech at Whole Foods, the US supermarket chain it snapped up for USD 13 billion in 2017.
Meanwhile, competitors like Trigo are creeping up fast. The Tel Aviv-based startup has announced partnerships with large supermarket chains like Rewe in Germany, Aldi Nord in the Netherlands, and Tesco in the UK for its cashierless platform.
Trigo’s COO, Jenya Beilin, however, is still adamant that his company is not a competitor to Amazon.
“We’re happy to be mentioned next to Amazon,” Beilin told NoCamels. “Amazon is pushing the market, which is great because I think they’re showing that it is possible, it’s working, and customers are enjoying this experience. Our partners are seeing this and saying, ‘Hey, we want that too.’ At Trigo, we help them get there with the same customer experience.”
“But for now, they [Amazon] have a technology that is a bit different from what we do because they have the privilege of building the stores from scratch. They take real estate and build it to feed the technology, so they are able to control everything,” Beilin added.
Meanwhile, thanks to partnerships with grocery chains like Tesco, Trigo has been able to implement its tech in stores that have successfully existed for some time, with “retailers that have been in the market for ages,” Beilin said.
Supermarket chains go checkout-free
Founded in 2017, Trigo emerged a year later with USD 7 million in seed funding that allowed the firm to roll out its computer vision platform for checkout-free shopping. The platform allows customers to grab items from shelves and go, while retailers can automatically charge customers for these goods via a smartphone.
Trigo has since partnered with Shufersal, Israel’s largest supermarket chain, to bring its platform to stores in Tel Aviv. The company has also raised over USD 100 million in funding, including a USD 22 million Series A in 2019, a USD 60 million Series B in December 2020, and another USD 10 million announced in June 2021.
Trigo’s goal is to implement its tech in existing stores without disrupting the store’s layout or character. Despite the challenges, the feedback has been positive while the success rate has been high, Beilin said. He highlighted the use of its tech at a 225 sqm Tesco Express store in High Holborn, central London.
Tesco, the world’s third-largest retailer, has been testing Trigo’s platform since 2018, but its first live deployment only took place last month. Customers are able to use a QR scanner on the Tesco app to check in to the branch, select groceries, and leave without standing in line to pay. Customers are then charged on the card linked to their Tesco app and will receive a receipt after leaving the store. Trigo provides cameras and AI-powered infrastructure for the store.
“When we went live, we got huge attention,” Beilin said. “In the following days, we saw customers coming back again to do their shopping,” Beilin said.
Trigo’s technology was also implemented in Germany’s second largest grocery chain, Rewe Group, last month. The company announced its partnership with Rewe Group in May and added its platform to the store just five months later.
Trigo also announced that its tech will power an Aldi Nord grocery store in the central Dutch city of Utrecht, the country’s fourth-largest city. “We are very excited to have multiple partners. These retailers see and share the same vision in terms of how we can offer this customer experience,” Beilin said.
“They’re very different in the way they operate—different region, different country, a different way to structure their supply chain and everything, but they all want to provide the best customer experience for shoppers,” he added.
“This is where we see a huge advantage for Trigo,” he said. “It’s very important for Tesco shoppers to see Tesco. They don’t want to shop in a lab. I think the goal for us is to make sure that we offer a solution for retailers because they are the ones servicing the customers. They know their customers best, and their customers want to shop at Tesco.”
Plans for the US
Beilin told NoCamels that Trigo is in advanced negotiations with a number of grocery retailers in the US. While he declined to say which ones, he said that the partnerships with Tesco and Rewe “should be a good boost for those retailers that are kind of on the fence about our tech, to see that we can deliver.”
The future looks bright for Trigo as the company continues to target two different long-term goals for its computer vision tech. The first is to expand its footprint to much larger stores and supermarkets, Beilin said. “We see huge potential in our partners and in the technology.”
The second goal is global expansion while bringing in new retailers, including in the US. “We’re going to expand and move to the phase where it’s not only one or two stores—it’s a business where we can start converting many stores. And those retailers have hundreds and thousands of stores,” Beilin said.
“This is the next evolution and our next step for Trigo and our partners. Let’s scale this out,” he said.
The article was originally published by NoCamels, a leading news website covering breakthrough innovation from Israel for a global audience.