At a glance

2020 - 2021
Ongoing
Enterprise
Discovery & strategy, Design & user research, Build & migration
User needs, Multidisciplinary teams, Agile delivery, Open source

The challenge

During extensive market research, the Pricebook 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.

The outcomes

  • 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: 

  • Alfred Deeb, founder of Salsa Digital

  • 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.

Based on this feedback, development of the original project (the inventory reordering app) was put on hold, and the team pivoted to develop a new product, Pricebook.

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

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.

The tech

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. 

User testing

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.