Warwickshire artificial intelligence firm EBI.AI has been selected by one of Sweden’s biggest grocers to develop a virtual shopping assistant.

In its first iteration – which will be launched in spring – Coop Sweden’s Cooper assistant will answer basic questions put to it via the retailer’s website and app.

“You can also ask it things like ‘I’m a vegetarian and I’m looking for a curry recipe’ and it will give you a couple of recipes,” explained Amer Mohammed, chief digital officer at Coop Sweden.

By summer, an updated Cooper will be able to correspond on multiple channels including smart speakers and WhatsApp. Users will be able to add items in a suggested recipe to an online cart or shopping list and upload diet or health ambitions for guidance while shopping.

In May, Coop is replacing its in-store self-scanning devices with a mobile app version.

“That app will be connected to Cooper, so while you are scanning, Cooper will tell you nutritional information or if something doesn’t follow your diet or chosen lifestyle,” Mohammed said.

In the long term, the Cooper platform will be made available to other companies to run promotions on.

“It might be a fitness chain wants to provide a 50% subscription discount to everyone that buys healthy food,” said Mohammed, who joined Coop Sweden in September to lead its new digital team.

“The highest valued companies in the world are all platforms. It’s the evolution of economy. Even though Cooper starts as a simple FAQ, the end game is it becomes a platform,” he added.

EBI.AI was founded in 2014 and claims to be the most advanced lab for conversational bots in the UK. Mohammed has partnered with the company to create a bot while in a previous role at ferry operator Stena Line.

“The goal is to be in people’s lives and to make their lives easier,” Mohammed said.

“Traditionally in this industry we think that providing more coupons is going to win us market share. I don’t believe that. If you make customer’s lives easier, they will always have you top of mind.”

EBI.AI boss Matthew Doel said the partnership put his company at the forefront of AI in the grocery sector.

“It is a privilege to work with Coop in Sweden as the company is serious about delivering extraordinary customer experience and an excellent example for others to follow,” Doel said.

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