The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Mindaugas Eglinskas, CEO of Pixevia. Pixevia is a Lithuanian-based grocery data business that focuses on autonomous innovation. Eglinskas discussed the benefits of grocery data and autonomous shopping, Pixevia’s partnership with IKI retail chain, and how future innovation will affect the grocery industry.
Kir Nuthi: What does it mean to work in grocery data analysis, and why is grocery data critical to food retail?
Mindaugas Eglinskas: By analyzing data obtained from video streams and custom shelf sensors, we can transform grocery retail, uplift the customer experience, and enhance the way grocery stores work.
Right now, most food businesses require four different roles for each store: a checkout attendant, a security personnel, someone to replenish the shelves, and a manager to oversee these roles. With the help of AI, we can enable one or two individuals in larger stores to efficiently handle all these tasks. Our AI-driven store technology is powered by our data analysis, which we have gathered and learned from the store itself.
The same real-time data enables the best possible customer experience. You don’t have to scan a product, and you don’t have to know how the store works. You just tap your card, enter the store, grab items, and everything is recognized automatically. When you’re done shopping, you tap the card again and simply leave the store. There’s no need to interact with employees, wait in line, or seek checkout assistance, as often happens with self-checkouts. The store can function fully autonomously.
And from a store management perspective, AI helps identify which products need to be replenished as quickly as possible, which items are not following the planogram for placement, which items require recounting or organizing, and when these actions need to be taken.
Nuthi: What differentiates your company from competitors in grocery tech and autonomous shopping?
Eglinskas: Pixevia is a pioneer in autonomous shopping, having opened the first AI-driven store in Europe in 2019, well ahead of Amazon, Tesco, and other major players. The store offered a similar experience to Amazon Go stores, where customers had to download an app to enter. However, we learned that not all customers want to go through the hassle of downloading an app just to purchase a simple item like a sandwich or a bottle of water.
To make the shopping experience easier, customers can simply tap a card to enter the store. As they shop, the system calculates the virtual shopping basket in real-time and displays the contents of the cart at the exit for verification. Additionally, the system prints a regular receipt, as required in most European countries, ensuring that customers know exactly what they have paid for and the corresponding amount.
Nuthi: You’ve previously mentioned that Pixevia is a partner for grocers beyond cashless stores and automation and in retail analysis. How do you see Pixevia help grocers economize their operations?
Eglinskas: When it comes to seamless checkout at Pixevia, we are focused on building valuable tools and data structures that can be utilized for further store automation and improvement. For instance, we create a comprehensive 3D digital twin of the store, which is constantly updated multiple times per second. This allows the system to accurately track which items are taken and which are put back on the shelves. The 3D visualizations of the shelves also provide insights into the activity levels of different shelves, customer decision-making patterns, and help in updating store layouts and planograms.
Our system is capable of identifying when customers try multiple products but ultimately leave without making a purchase. Additionally, Pixevia captures data on customer paths as they navigate through the store, whether they are shopping alone or in groups. By clustering shoppers into different groups, such as single buyers, family buyers, or large groups, we gather more information that enables data-driven decision-making and improves demand forecasting.
Nuthi: Do you foresee any challenges as Pixevia grows and develops alongside new technological innovations, or is there a new AI technology you’re excited to see develop and eventually integrate into your business?
Eglinskas: In our case, there are no doubts that all stores will eventually become AI-driven stores. The question lies in how quickly we can implement these innovations. The excitement surrounding AI and its potential insights is palpable, and for us, AI-driven stores represent a significant innovation that we can offer to the retail industry. However, it is important to acknowledge that transitioning to an entirely new mode of operation also entails implementing a new type of software stack. This integration process takes time and requires adjustments to existing systems and processes within grocery and convenience stores.
The adoption of technology in the grocery space presents various challenges, particularly when it comes to integrating the new technology stack with existing legacy systems. Furthermore, changing and updating store processes is often necessary in order to fully leverage the value and accuracy provided by the AI system. This transformation can also be challenging for staff members who are accustomed to working in non-automated stores and may need to adjust their workflows accordingly.
Nuthi: You recently partnered with IKI, the second-largest grocer in the Baltics. As Pixevia is working through the new partnerships and growing, what are the next series of goals for the company?
Eglinskas: We are thrilled to announce our partnership with the IKI retail chain, which is a part of the Rewe Group, one of Europe’s largest retailers. This collaboration marks a significant milestone for us. Additionally, we have recently launched our first store in the United States, expanding our presence into major consumer markets.
Our primary objective is to establish ourselves as a leader in these markets, with a particular emphasis on Europe. We believe that our in-depth knowledge of the European market positions us well for future success in convenience store automation. We understand the unique variations in software and payment systems across different countries, and we are well-versed in the data and payments requirements specific to the European region. As such, we view ourselves as leaders in digital transformation within Europe and are step-by-step progressing towards that goal. Internally, we are also dedicated to offering a competitively priced product that allows us to deploy larger and larger stores.