At a glance
2020 - 2021
Discovery & strategy, Design & user research, Build & migration
User needs, Multidisciplinary teams, Agile delivery, Open source
During extensive market research, the team identified a common pain point that constantly challenges the food service industry — frequent supplier product price changes. Some businesses spend significant time reviewing each invoice, others simply don’t have time and find out about changes later. There is a clear need for greater cost visibility and buying strategy.
How it works
Pricebook is clever and easy-to-use technology that allows small business owners to regain control of their spending. They simply take a photo of their invoices via the mobile app, or email them through. Pricebook automatically recognises, extracts and structures the invoice details so businesses can track price fluctuations on their purchases.
Quick and easy identification of price changes and ordering anomalies
Control — with price changes obvious, businesses can make informed decisions
Automation of an error-prone, manual and tedious task
The challenge — identifying price creep in real-time
Pricebook was created by three people:
Alan Rako, experienced FMCG product marketer
Roman Barbun, an experienced computer engineer
Seeking proof of concept feedback from businesses for an inventory reordering app, Alfred, Alan and Roman discovered another pain point — tracking price fluctuations on purchased goods. Checking invoices to identify price increases was a crucial but also manual, time-consuming, monotonous and erroneous task. Businesses often only became aware of profit-slashing price increases when they had time to find and compare invoices. They needed a better process.
Business transformation — clever tech through a simple photo
Using information collected during proof of concept for the initial project, the team commenced work on conceptualising another stand-alone tech product. Their ambition for this product? An easy-to-use app that could automate the frustrating exercise of matching and then comparing line items on invoices to track price movements for frequently purchased goods.
An idea took form...by simply taking a photo of an invoice, businesses could instantly see how prices for the same product had changed compared to the last invoice. They could identify price creeps in real-time, and react quickly to mitigate profit squeeze.
Research and investigation first focused on building a software solution that could extract information from invoices and organise it in ways that were useful to the business.
They next had to come up with software that could extract invoice details so that comparisons of goods could be made like-to-like, unit-to-unit. As an added bonus they also wanted businesses to have a central repository of all their purchasing history, conveniently accessible in their pocket.
Some of the clever tech that was used includes:
Computer vision to pre-validate and extract text from images (OCR)
Machine learning to accurately label and structure the data
A fuzzy-matching mechanism to find relevant items to draw comparisons between products
Scalable backend that orchestrates the process via APIs
A cross-platform mobile application to provide unique UI/UX that allows users to conveniently draw insights into their spending, orders, products and prices in one single place.
Qualitative user testing was carried out for three months after Pricebook’s alpha launch. Every week, one-on-one, hour-long interviews were conducted to understand:
What users liked and disliked about the product
Accuracy of the data extraction tech
Frequency of use and why
Satisfaction levels around performance and stability
Features that were useful or needed to be added
As a result of this feedback, updates included:
Dashboard: One easy-to-access place to monitor invoices, suppliers and products. Businesses could find out how much they were spending across their suppliers and instantly see how many products went up in price over a selected period of time.
Usage: Added functionality to check current usage and quickly access billing history with the tap of a button.
Camera: A new and improved camera with functionality to take photos of multi-page invoices.
Settings: Improved communication with Pricebook via different channels for additional support.
User experience: Removal of unnecessary animations and a simplified user experience.
“Pricebook represented an exciting opportunity for me to work with other Salsarians and build an innovative, lean startup that's a true pioneer in the FMCG industry. It's also reflective of the Salsa culture, creating a place where people can innovate together.”
Alfred Deeb, Founder and Director of Salsa Digital, Co-founder Pricebook
The outcomes — helping businesses track price creeps through clever tech
Pricebook is the result of agile thinking to pivot the creation of a product that delivers real value to many businesses in the food service industry. These benefits include:
Real-time price checks as soon as an invoice is received
Staying on top of price creeps that affect the bottom line
Automation of error-prone, manual and tedious invoice comparisons
A range of processing functions to organise data related to suppliers and their goods
About Pricebook’s clients
Currently Pricebook services small business owners and chefs in the food service industry — businesses like cafés, pizza restaurants and high-end restaurants that order goods across many suppliers, frequently.