Few industries are evolving at the speed of retail. From Punchh (the marketing platform for brick-and-mortar retailers driving omnichannel experience) to Bedrock Analytics (the data and AI platform for the CPG industry), the whirlwind transformation of retail and CPG has inspired a core investment thesis: “Retail Reimagined.”
Several brick-and-mortar innovations over the past few years have included loyalty platforms, mobile payments, in-store advertising, and new delivery options. The latest technology at the top of everyone’s shopping list is auto-checkout and automation of physical retail stores. Amazon’s big bet in launching the Amazon Go stores is leading retailers to re-evaluate their strategies. Given Amazon’s power, how will convenience stores, grocery chains, and other physical retailers respond?
Eliminating checkout lines increases bottom lines
The advent of mobile phones has led to a radical change in customer expectations. Labor costs in the retail industry continue to rise and finding good, reliable talent is becoming harder. These are key drivers behind the checkout automation frenzy. While small format convenience stores are likely the first group of retailers to deploy automation, soon retailers of all types will enter the land of the lineless.
The most obvious benefit of automated checkout is improved customer experience as eliminating check-out lines, for most customers, is likely to increase overall satisfaction and brand loyalty. Store automation will enable employees to act more like concierges rather than doing repetitive tasks managing checkout lines. Operationally, instantaneous checkout will lead to less crowded stores and a higher transaction rate.
The ability to deliver a high-accuracy platform at an affordable price to retailers will be critical to success. We believe AiFi is well positioned to be the dominant leader in this space.
Cervin’s Series A Investment in AiFi
Led by the formidable team of Steve Gu and Ying Zheng (Ex-Google, Apple, and HortonWorks), AiFi is helping retailers develop the “retail store of the future.”
They are doing this with an AI-based solution that’s easy to set up and scale. Perhaps even more impressive than AiFi’s product offering and the pedigree of the founding team is the incredible market opportunity to transform the multi-trillion dollar retail, food services, and convenience store markets. We’re thrilled to lead their $11 million Series A.
AiFi will enable retailers of all sizes, from tiny bodegas to large big-box stores, to offer cashier-less checkout. Since 99% of the US population lives less than two miles from a convenience store, converting these existing businesses to autonomous stores means AiFi can deliver a significantly better customer experience to brick-and-mortar shoppers.
Aside from AiFi’s seamless integration, its computer vision and real-time analytics enable retailers to make data-backed decisions. Since AiFi’s launch in 2018, both domestic and international customers have tapped this data-focused approach, including large supermarkets and leading convenience store chains. Managers and executives at these stores are able to sift through analytics around transactions, inventory, and consumer behavior to make informed choices, not judgment calls, around store operations.
It’s a tremendous pleasure to partner with Steve, Ying, and the entire AiFi team to usher in the next frontier of retail innovation. On behalf of all of us at Cervin Ventures, welcome aboard — we can’t wait to see what the rest of 2019 has “in store.”