- Mi9 Retail, the retail technology company that acquired MyWebGrocer in 2018, is launching an enhanced personalization tool to its grocery e-commerce platform in partnership with intelligence firm Halla.
- Mi9 will integrate Halla’s “taste intelligence” technology, which applies artificial intelligence to data from various sources, including 17 million different recipes, to enhance search and product recommendation abilities under Mi9’s new grocery platform, ThryveAI.
- The collaboration is currently testing at a North American grocery chain with more than 150 locations. Mi9’s Thryve AI toolkit, which launched in June, has rolled out to several regional grocers in recent months and will be utilized by around 12 food retailers by the end of this year.
Neil Moses, CEO of Mi9, said enhanced personalization is the top request from regional and independent grocery chains his company has spoken with. With online shopping demand the highest it’s ever been, he said, these companies are looking to boost discovery, retain shoppers and ultimately increase basket sizes using the same assortment that's proven successful in their physical stores.
The spotlight lately has been on substitutions, with panic buying cleaning off store shelves and backrooms and some product categories, like hand sanitizer, still short in supply. Moses said retailers want to be able to make sharper recommendations for shoppers and ensure their systems connect them with any relevant products they have.
“What grocers don’t want to do is ship you less than your full order when you purchase online,” Moses said.
Halla, which started in 2018, specializes in personalization. Drawing upon data from purchase transactions, recipes, restaurant menus and more than 800,000 food products all broken down into a “food genome,” according to co-founder and CEO Spencer Price, the company boasts highly accurate search results and recommendations that anticipate demand. Where many product recommendation engines link items based on customer data and purchase transactions, Halla’s technology, he said, defines commonality across ingredients at the molecular level and applies artificial intelligence to make recommendations that aren’t always obvious — like linking bagels with non-dairy cream cheese and avocados. He compared the system to the recommendation tools that Netflix and Spotify use.
This marks one of the first retailer-facing integrations for Halla, which last year linked up with mobile checkout firm FutureProof Retail to offer product recommendations through its scan-and-go program.
Mi9, which provides tools to a variety of retailers ranging from Williams-Sonoma to Nike, has turned its focus to grocery as more dollars flow into digital channels. After acquiring MyWebGrocer in 2018, the company built out its ThryveAI platform with the goal of plugging in various new technologies like Halla. If the retail pilot goes well, Halla’s personalization technology will become a core part of the ThryveAI platform, Moses said.
As online grocery sales have ballooned to more than $7 billion monthly, tech providers are cashing in on retailers’ drive to improve their e-commerce operations. Moses and Price said the pandemic has become the tipping point for many regional and independent grocers to invest in e-commerce as a key channel.
Moses said Mi9 has signed on six new grocery clients in recent weeks. Its current client base includes Meijer, Giant Eagle, United Supermarkets and Wakefern.
“We made a big decision really to focus on this market and invest heavily and shift our investments to this market more than any other because we just saw this urgent need for these larger regional and independent grocers we serve to provide online shopping for their customers.”
Correction: In a previous version of this article, ThryveAI Partners was misspelled.