Start-up offers frozen-pea-finding app
Now grocery shoppers don't have to ask surly shelf-stacking yoof
Aisle 411 plans to take mobile navigation down to the floor plan level, guiding shoppers around American supermarkets even if the supermarket doesn’t want to play.
The application should be in the iTunes store today, Apple’s approval process permitting, and will respond to a spoken search with a map of the store in which one is standing, indicating where the selected goods can be found and perhaps a special offer or two to help pay for the whole process.
The voice recognition is licensed from Nuance, but the search is tailored to the store and the kind of thing a beleaguered shopper will want to know. Ask for "frozen peas" and you'll be shown a map showing the rough location of the frozen peas, ask for nine-inch nails and the result of your search will depend on the kind of shop you're in - though initially it will be the hammered-in variety as supermarkets and hardware stores are the focus for the company.
Once you've found your product you can scan the bar code to see reviews (scraped from Amazon), and maybe pick up a token or two as an advertising opportunity. Non-iPhone users can get access to a web version, with suitably-restricted functionality, but an Android version is promised for next year.
Aisle 411 gets its data from the stores, some of which are working with the company (such as the "Shop 'n Save" chain), and some for which the company simply obtained for floor plans - "They don't make it obvious, but the information is all there," Aisle 411 assured us.
That covers the large-scale data, and Aisle 411 isn't going to try to map every end-of-aisle offer. But it does reckon it can provide a useful search more than 80 per cent of the time. When the search is wrong, or inaccurate, then the user is invited to correct the data and is rewarded for their diligence with suitably intangible benefits.
Such benefits can also be gained by visiting a store more than any other user (becoming "Captain", so as not to impose on FourSquare's Mayoral status), and by activating bonus tokens through the use of special (and secret) search terms. The latter can lead to tangible rewards too, depending on what the advertiser of the day is offering.
Two years in the making, and still burning though $2.1m in Angel cash, Aisle 411's success will ultimately come down to the quality of the data, how often the stores change their layouts, and how many shoppers will reach for their phone rather than interact with the surly youth stacking shelves. ®
Just how does it handle: "Ok, where the f*** have these f***ing bastards put the f***ing flour this f***ing week then?"
Most parsing algorithms presented with that would tell you where to go for a fuck which, while possibly of interest, isn't of any help in my quest to make shortcrust pastry.
These guys will get my money if they can do it for the UK.
Its positivily INSANE that there 'appears' to be no way of knowing or finding out if a supermarket has an item instock, never mind where it might be.
Dont try tell me that the millions they spend on inventory control cant tell me if theres a packet of jaffa cakes in the store.
I know they want me to wander like a drone through the aisles buying random things I didnt want... But these days if i cant find something I need I hand back the basket of what I've got, explain they dont have what I need, and walk out.
Supermarket shenanigans EXPOSED
IT'S ALL TRUE! I once worked in a supermarket stocking shelves, and sometimes they'd have us spend an entire night shift, especially on the weekend, moving items from shelf to shelf, just to make it harder for people to find what they'd come in to the place to buy. Seriously, there's nothing more entertaining than watching a frustrated mother of four completely lose her rag in the middle of the paper-goods aisle and throw a frothing wobbler -- dropping bricks off a freeway bridge just doesn't begin to compare!
Oh, wait, no, actually, we didn't do anything like that at all, because that would be fucking stupid. Instead we took the boring, predictable option and put things right by other things just like them, in the aisles where the signs said they should be -- you know, like how you always seem to find the butter in the dairy case with the other butter, not halfway across the store in the butcher-shop cold cases because we thought it'd offer better cross-selling opportunities with the meat.
(Though admittedly, if you've never taken an extra-rare steak, salted it, and seared it in butter until the outside turned crispy, you're missing out on a culinary experience fit for a god. Top with melted bleu cheese, bacon, and mushrooms sauteed in the bacon fat for something that'll get gods to convert to *you* -- and so what if it clogs up your pipes? Everybody dies of something or other, so why not enjoy yourself on the way?)
Honestly, has it ever occurred to some of you that you might have an easier time of it in the grocery store if you spent less effort on concocting elaborate conspiracy theories to explain why you always need a half hour to find your favorite brand of shrimp-and-mango-chutney crisps, and a little more on paying attention to where things are so that you don't have to figure it out entirely from scratch the next time you take it into your tiny little heads to wander in the front door? Or would that cut into your all-important Foursquare time?