Briskly: a shining star of autonomous retail revolution from CIS going global
Market trend and transformation
Briskly is a established leader of autonomous retail tech in CIS region, providing major retail players: grocery giants and regional small-shop networks a range of services to automate their B2C channels while also scaling a lucrative and extremely profitable vending business.
Gauss met Briskly in 2018 at a Visa Everywhere Initiative innovation competition, where the team took 1st prize to build a true autonomous store with app access, camera arrays and self-checkout — all built to fit in a 20ft box.
Miniaturising the idea (losing the box while keeping the smart ingredients) allowed Briskly to scale its business while dropping the CAPEX component and becoming a trusted agent to implement new cashier-less experience in already built stores. As the business slowly took off, a massive acceleration was served via COVID19, citizens of major cities ordered to stay at home and relying on their mobile apps to order groceries among other things.
Where Briskly original roots of office vending suffered, the team thought of the challenge as one massive vending experiment. Not only one needed to turn on hundreds of contactless grocery points, one had to connect the hardware with providers while competing with “quick commerce” delivery and luring users to venture out.
Covid19 is a huge testing ground of micro-grocery format: whether to order from spawning dark-stores vs. order from a nearby grocery shop. This segment is suffering the most, squeezed between superstores winning through price pressure and quick commerce winning through convenience and vast selection.
Retailers betting on differentiation started to actively investigate autonomous retail models. Also, it finally dawned on late majority, that massive switch to online poses a threat to offline behaviour. It does not kill it for majority, but it changes it: users relying on apps while navigating the store, being able to compare prices etc.
Briskly provides not only the hardware tools to render the experience, it also connects the B2C interface to interact with them: an app they did for the user to self-check-out — the team repurposed for B2B, so that aggregation services could link-up the feed of stores running on Briskly to provide quick-commerce services: and couriers could also check-out the selected goods without intervention.
Briskly developed a B2B interface to monitor sales, manage pricing, run targeted offer redemption and cash-back — that integrates with merchant accounting systems.
All that catalysed the business to get Briskly working with hundreds of merchants big and small in 8 countries by mid 2021, while growing revenue 3x over the previous year.
Regular revenue from hardware led the team to acquire its own production plant, complete internalisation of all critical elements development (insulating from chip deficit) while scaling production and managing installed base through Briskly’s own maintenance service.
Where most international autonomous retail projects are a) raking investments while b) only having prototype implementations in controlled setting, Briskly sales is achieving unparalleled price-performance ratios — at scale.
Two distinct groups rely on mode advanced machine-vision arrays or enable near-seamless operation via QR and self-scan.
Former include companies like Watasale, Inokyo, Grabango, and Standard Cognition, where Sensei offers a hybrid model (their latest announcement with Sonae relies on sensors). Machine vision carries the heaviest premium and requires lots of steps to teach a system of packages, so a previous generation check-out via QR often works best.
Machine-vision enabed store require massive investment in processes behind the shop: precicely a reason what Amazon Go / Fresh is doing: automating the last-mile with Go, while applying pressure on suppliers at the backend.
Some champions would win via massive front-up investment to deliver the next-gen tech, some will get via scale and connectivity with small merchants who found a trusted partner to survive in the post COVID19 world of omni-channel.