Can AI change the way we shop? Popspots thinks so

by Katie Fustich
September 13, 2018
image via facebook

You probably don’t think of your average grocery store as a hotbed for technological innovation.

But consider how frequently you visit — whether for a quart of milk or fittings for a feast — as well as the range of individuals with different needs, socioeconomic backgrounds and interests who walk in and out of those sliding-glass doors each day.

When Popspots was founded in 2016, its founders saw great potential in an industry where consumers spend $1.46 trillion each year. And they’ve zeroed in on the ways in which technologies like artificial intelligence, stock management and audiovisual media can expand the average grocery store trip into an experience.

“A year ago, we had a few pilot stores and nobody wanted to talk to us,” said CEO Marlow Nickell. “Now, with over 240 stores and counting, we’re beginning to field strong interest from in-store brands wanting to leverage the Popspots network to better reach, engage and convert the millions of U.S. consumers who shop in grocery stores every day.”

With over 240 stores and counting, we’re beginning to field strong interest from in-store brands.”


Nickell co-founded the company alongside Edward Cates and Donald Oelke, who now serve as CTO and COO, respectively. All three bring robust backgrounds when it comes to startup and technology industry experience, in addition to a deep connection to the city. The founders are University of Texas grads who, after considering cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, ultimately decided to remain in the city of their alma mater.

“Austin has more livable housing than most tech cities, nature within a few minutes of downtown and a vibrant consumer packaged goods startup scene,” said Nickell. “For us, this combination struck the best balance.”

Now, Popspots is ready to hit the ground running.

“This year, we’re focused on building brand relationships while continuing to expand our grocery store network,” Nickell explained. “In the past few months alone, we’ve onboarded some of the world’s most recognized brands, including Mars-Wrigley, Pepsi, Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. We expect this trend to accelerate as we continue to expand our store network and offer more opportunities for consumer engagement.”

According to the firm’s statistics, the checkout area of any supermarket is a major financial drain, costing grocery stores an annual loss of more than $500 million each year due to misplaced or out-of-stock products. Popspots builds smart displays that help convert customers at the checkout, and help grocery store management reduce loss by managing inventory.

Recently, Popspots made its official launch following its success at MassChallenge Texas, where it took home the $25K Gold Award, among other honors.

“We’re focused on growing our team and continuing to expand our network of smart devices to grocery stores across the United States,” Nickell explained, so expect to meet Popspots at a grocery store near you soon.

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