Dive Brief:

  • Frictionless checkout startup Grabango has struck a deal to install its computer vision-based technology in retail locations operated by the Mapco convenience store chain, according to a Tuesday press release.
  • Mapco plans to debut the technology, which lets customers walk out of stores with purchases without stopping at a checkout counter, by this fall in two stores in Tennessee, including one location based on the retailer’s “store of the future” format.
  • Grabango’s arrangement with the Southeastern convenience store operator comes as the technology firm readies an expansion to supermarkets, which founder and CEO Will Glaser expects to ramp up next year.

Dive Insight:

While Grabango has concentrated its attention on convenience stores since it started working with retailers to bring its technology to stores, the company is also intent on partnering with supermarket operators, whose larger stores pose a bigger challenge than the relatively small locations run by convenience store chains.

Grabango is already testing its equipment in an approximately 40,000-square-foot store run by an unidentified supermarket operator and expects to add its technology to more grocery stores beginning next year, Glaser said in an interview.

“2022 is the year that convenience store numbers start to get really big, but grocery stores are about a year behind … and they’ll start to scale in 2023,” Glaser said. He declined to provide more specifics about the timeline Grabango is eyeing or the retailers it is working with or intends to approach.

Amazon has already deployed its Just Walk Out checkout-free technology in Amazon Fresh supermarkets and Amazon Go convenience stores, but Glaser said Grabango intends to set itself apart from the e-commerce giant by emphasizing its ability to quickly retrofit existing stores because it does not rely on shelf sensors — a capability he described as a differentiator for the company.

Grabango is currently working with seven retailers and its equipment is operating across a total of 120,000 square feet of retail space, according to the press release about Grabango’s partnership with Mapco. Glaser said that figure includes the 40,000-square foot grocery store where the company is testing its equipment.

Grabango’s announced retail partners include grocery chain Giant Eagle, which announced last fall it would add the frictionless checkout gear to several GetGo Cafe+Market convenience stores in the Pittsburgh area. The company has also signed on with BP to retrofit 10 convenience stores with its technology, and is working with Circle K to add frictionless checkout technology to several of the c-store chain’s stores in Arizona.

In addition to Amazon, Grabango faces stiff competition from other startups as it looks to build its presence in the frictionless-checkout space.

The company’s announcement that it is working with Mapco comes a day after rival computer vision developer Standard AI revealed that it has retrofitted a store at San Jose State University in California with checkout-free technology. That deployment, which involved Chartwells Higher Education, follows Standard’s announcement in October that the Circle K convenience store chain had added its equipment to a location in Tempe, Arizona, as part of a planned multi-store rollout in the state.

Meanwhile, Georgia retail startup Nourish + Bloom Market recently opened a 1,500-square-foot checkout-free grocery store in Fayetteville, Georgia, equipped with technology supplied by computer vision company UST.

Other companies in the frictionless checkout space include Trigo, which is working with grocers including Wakefern, and Zippin.

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