Wynshop Acquires AI-Personalization Engine Halla

CEOs explain how grocery-specific technologies will enhance digital shopping for consumers and retailers
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Halla graphic
Halla's tech is akin to playlists like Spotify, using AI and ML to provide more relevant recommendations.

To boost its grocery tech capabilities, Wynshop has acquired Halla, an AI-driven personalization engine designed specifically for the grocery industry. The companies have already partnered on several projects over the past few years, and Wynshop has incorporated some of the tech firm’s solutions.

The formal acquisition will allow Wynshop to help its mid-size grocery customers provide more relevant digital shopping experiences to consumers. Halla’s personalization technology leverages over 100 billion shopper and product data points and uses purpose-built machine learning (ML) to deliver tailored recommendations, substitutions and searches, an improvement over previous tools based on shopping trends and lagging sales data.

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In a recent interview with Progressive Grocer, Wynshop CEO Neil Moses said it was important for the company to work with a partner guided by a personalization strategy. “The ability to personalize is what the consumer has been looking for, it’s what the consumer expects and it also hits what grocers are pushing for. We viewed it as a priority at the top of our list,” he said. 

Personalization is crucial in today’s environment, as the omnichannel has evolved and improved. “It’s not just about having a website. It’s now around differentiating and competing against really good companies and large players in the space that have invested significantly in this market,” Moses pointed out. “Also, with Halla, you have people who are experts in food.”

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To his point, a differentiating feature is Halla’s grocery-specific model, based on an understanding of the attributes that make grocery shoppers’ goals unique. Those characteristics include biological, cultural, dietary and sensory attributes that are important to consumers. 

Halla CEO Spencer Price told Progressive Grocer that AI-driven recommendations, such as those deployed by Amazon, have driven upwards of a third of sales on some sites and that these newer AI tools can take that to another level. “It’s not just as simple as ‘You may also like’ – it’s what’s underneath that is powering it. There are industry-agnostic search engines, but grocery is a very personalized and nuanced space,” he explained, adding that compositions of households, with different preferences, also make this retail sector more complex. “You need to be able to target your recommendations and search results on a one-to-one basis and adapt to those consumers’ needs. That has been a missing piece in digital grocery for a while.”

Price discerned a need to fill that gap when he co-founded Halla with his two friends while they were still in college. “We knew from the beginning that we wanted to leverage technology to answer the question, ‘How do people decide what they want to eat?’’ he recalled.

Now, four years after the launch, Halla’s technology will be integrated into Wynshop’s existing suite of tools for browser-based and mobile applications. The company’s expertise will likewise be integrated, as Halla’s founders will join Wynshop’s team. 

Ultimately, the platform will reduce barriers like abandoned carts and shopper dissatisfaction through better and more relevant substitutions and other enhancements to the digital experience, according to Moses. “It’s really good at understanding, just like a music playlist,” he added.

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