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Major Japanese retailer partners with smart New Zealand tech


New Zealand technology start-up, IMAGR, has just announced its first international sales partnership, securing a deal with Japanese H2O RETAILING CORPORATION.

IMAGR is the creator of the SmartCart intelligent shopping trolley. Harnessing computer vision technology and AI, this queue-busting solution automates checkouts and payments for a frictionless shopping experience.

IMAGR’s first international roll out is anticipated for May 2020 and discussions are already underway with New Zealand, US and European retailers for further roll outs.

H2O RETAILING CORPORATION is headquartered in Osaka, Japan and operates supermarkets mainly in Osaka and other cities such as Kyoto and Kobe.

IMAGR founder and CEO William Chomley says globally leading retailers are investing heavily in technology to personalise and automate retail, in order to increase customer experience and profits.

“We’re operating in a $5.7 trillion global brick and mortar grocery retail sector, let alone other types of retail. So, it’s a fallacy that there isn’t opportunity in bricks and motor retail.

“We know Japan is leading the way in evolving retail and it’s doing so on a mammoth scale. Japan’s the second largest retail market in the world, at close to $600 billion USD in supermarket revenue, home to 127 million people, 55,000 convenience stores and over 8,000 supermarkets. It also has an ageing population and labour shortages which make it cost-prohibitive for retailers to find staff.

“To break into this market so early in our operation is a real coup and a sign of what we believe is to come. Beyond Japan the opportunity for SmartCart is immense.”

Off the back of this deal, IMAGR is opening its first office outside of New Zealand. The Japanese office will work closely with H2O RETAILING CORPORATION to ensure smooth roll out of the technology next year.

“With SmartCart, doing your shopping is easier and faster. There’s no need to wait in line, there’s no need to pull out a credit card, there’s no need to engage in small talk. Customers just put the goods in their trolley then walk right out of the store. It’s as easy as that,” Chomley points out.

IMAGR’s SmartCart contains four cameras coupled with the world’s most powerful AI vision recognition system. As a result, SmartCart knows what a customer puts in, or removes from, their carts. Self-contained in a robust trolley which is visually indistinguishable from a regular shopping cart, the cameras examine, recognise and account for goods as they are added or removed.

The solution is vastly more efficient than ceiling-based frictionless retail solutions, such as Amazon Go, and is far easier to implement. There is no facial detection with SmartCart, because the SmartCart cameras are focused within the cart, not the surrounding area.

There are other factors unique to SmartCart. The solution is designed for rapid and cost-effective deployment, integrating with existing business operations without requiring large capital investment. In fact, existing premises are suitable for its immediate introduction, as the technology is self-contained in the shopping trolley.

Customers can use SmartCart by installing an app, linking a payment method, and then syncing their handset with the cart when shopping for the easiest experience. Alternatively, SmartCart can be used without linking to a handset or bank card: customers arrive at the checkout with the trolley recording a predetermined total, eliminating the need for unloading, scanning and reloading individual items.

“We’ve specifically designed SmartCart for easy introduction so it generates revenue for retailers rapidly. In fact, the setup cost is roughly equivalent to that of introducing self-checkout,” Chomley explains.

“Globally, retailers are looking for ways to improve the customer experience while reducing overheads. SmartCart does both. We’re confident that once seen in action, SmartCart will become the preferred way of shopping for shoppers.”

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