Contactless stores are gaining popularity, especially in Europe, but some are also operating in the US, including Nourish + Bloom Market in Atlanta, which opened in January. In this article, we reported that the store is part of an area that includes Amazon Go, 7-Eleven, and Walmart.
Behind this cashless technology are startups like Sensei, Standard Cognition, Zippin, Grabango and Trigo, who have recently raised venture capital to advance their vision.
The latest company to introduce venture capital is AIFI, which allows retailers to cost-effectively implement and scale offline shopping. It does this with camera-only tools in supermarkets, sports stadiums and stores that don’t require weighted shelves, greatly reducing the cost and time it takes to install, said co-founder and CEO Steve Gu.
In addition, advanced tracking algorithms work in areas up to 10,000 square meters, supporting a variety of shopping methods, including app, credit card, private or hybrid access.
Santa Clara-based AIFI has raised $65 million in Series B funding with retail partners Aldi, Zabca and Verizon Ventures, enabling the company to leverage 5G technology.
This round brings the company a total of $80 million in funding and comes four years after we reported the AIFI preview and two years later in what Gu called his “Pre-Series B.”
He plans to use the new funding to strengthen the company’s implementation team to launch stores faster and more efficiently. In this regard, Gu believes that AIFI has figured out the formula: in 2020, the store will need six months to be ready to receive customers, and now the company will need less than a week.
In addition, AIFI will invest in product development and feature improvement.
“Autonomous checkout is just the beginning,” he says. “From the data we get, people are starting to understand that the way you run an offline store is like an e-commerce website.”
The capital injection comes at a time when AIFI is on the rise. Two years ago, the company had no public stores, and now it has 40 stores, 30 of which are Zabka. At the time, the largest store was 3,000 square feet, and a 6,000-square-foot Aldi store was opened in London in January.
Last November, AIFI opened in Paris with Carrefour, a Flash 10/10 premium concept store. This extended to National Football League stadiums and concerts, where stores reduced average transactions and queue times by 50% and increased per capita sales by 170%.
In addition to Aldi, Carrefour and Zabka, which Gu says currently have the most autonomous computer vision stores in the world, Compass Group is opening AiFi, Market x Flutter, Ireland’s first friction-free store. Also works with
All of these moves have resulted in a five to six-fold increase in revenue per year and what AIFI needs to grow its workforce from 40 employees in 2020 to 115 people worldwide today.
Meanwhile, Gu said the global pandemic has helped retailers and consumers understand the importance of offline stores. In retail, this was also an advantage as stores struggled to hire people.
The labor shortage caused by the “Great Regeneration” was actually the second wave that hurt retailers, the first of which was people not going into the store because they didn’t want to touch things in the store, said Melody Brew, an analyst retail technology. at Moore Insights.
It integrates AIFI data during store testing phases, reducing checkout times and increasing purchases. It also allows smaller stores to keep more accurate inventory records, leading to better supply chain management.
“We get so much data about how a shopper makes a purchase, what parts of the store people buy more, and what products sell best,” Brew said. “A lot of information can be obtained about such purchases, which takes a typical store manager more time to collect. If the chips sell better in the second pass than in the fourth, they may be harder to spot.”
As for the ongoing offline retail space funding, it appears to still be on the way, as evidenced by AIFI and several other companies, including French startup Boxee, which announced $28 million in funding a few weeks ago, and Focal Systems. which works. . With retailers like Walmart. In December, the company raised $25.8 million to automate its store.
“We certainly saw a lot of investment in automation, artificial intelligence and retail, and in a way there was a fintech element to that,” Bru said. “It seems like it’s been a long time since, for example, AIFI’s initial funding was a small round, and now it’s getting a huge tranche. In recent years, venture investing has been thematic in the sense that investing in areas that make people’s lives more convenient and efficient, as well as in terms of finance and retail, is gaining momentum. ,