The next time you’re running low on milk, you could jot down a reminder to pick up more – or instead, you could take a picture of the milk jug with your smartphone and automatically add ‘milk’ to your grocery list.

Grocery list apps aren’t anything new, but one Canadian startup is putting a new spin on them by allowing users to snap pictures of the items, instead of having to type them in. There’s a bonus here as well, because when results come up for a brand of milk, users may also see competitors promoting different offers, coupons, and so on, allowing them to shave a little cash off the weekly grocery budget.

PDN's Shopper app. (Image: PDN).
PDN’s Shopper app. (Image: PDN).

To do all this, Toronto’s Slyce Inc. has partnered with the Purchase Decision Network (PDN), which is based in the U.S. We’ve written about Slyce before, which used to focus more on allowing consumers to take pictures of items they wanted to buy, like a pair of shoes, and then being able to track down those products online using Slyce’s visual search technology.

Now, Slyce is enabling that technology to work with PDN’s Shopper app, giving consumers a grocery list matched with recipes, coupons, and store flyers. PDN’s network of apps, which includes Shopper, Out of Milk, Buy Me a Pie, Our Groceries, and Scan2List, pulls in two million monthly users who power up the apps on 10 million shopping trips per month.

“Basically it’s a way for shoppers to find out about all the different relevant products … Maybe there could be better-priced products, healthier products, or coupons on specific products that are similar,” says Mark Elfenbein, Slyce’s president and CEO. He adds that Slyce’s visual search technology generally delivers results that are more than 90 per cent accurate.

If there’s something Slyce can’t find, the company has some staff dedicated to looking up products in a database and finding exact matches, delivering results to users in less than a minute. And unlike apps that rely on barcodes, Slyce can scan items like fruit – after all, bananas typically don’t come with barcodes printed on them.

Aside from helping consumers do their groceries, there could definitely be some benefits here for brands and marketers as well. For example, marketers could track which products have been added to the Shopper app most often, where people are buying certain products at certain stores, and so on. And at some point, Slyce plans on adding loyalty marketing features to its product, Elfenbein adds.

Slyce and PDN plan on monetizing their partnership by getting brand sponsorships, allowing a brand to sponsor a user’s entire experience. The other plan is to provide sponsored listings. If a brand wants to continually appear as one of the listings for cereal, for example, it can pay to do that.

For consumers in Canada and the U.S., the combination of Slyce’s visual search with PDN’s coupons and offers should be available in the next two months.

In March, Slyce raised funding of $10.75 million in a round led by Beacon Securities. Other investors included PI Financial, Salman Partners, Harrington Global Inc., AlphaNorth Asset Management and other private investors.

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