Can Instacart marry in-store and online grocery shopping experiences?

September 26, 2022

Instacart introduced last week Affiliated Businessesa bundle of six Instagram-related technologies aimed at cCombine the convenience, speed and personalization of online grocery shopping with the inspiration and discovery that happens in physical stores.

Technologies, some of which support Instacart buyers and retail workers include:

  • Improved Caper Wagon: The AI-powered intelligent “caper cart,” acquired by Instacart last October, uses scales, sensors, touchscreens and computer vision to allow customers to add items to their cart and checkout without manually scanning items. The updated model is slimmer and lighter with 65 percent more capacity.
  • Scan & Pay: For grocers who don’t want smart carts, the feature allows customers to use their cellphones to scan items as they shop and pay. Purchased items can be linked to customers’ online shopping accounts to facilitate repeat purchases.
  • Lists: Customers can sync their shopping lists directly to a Caper Cart by scanning a QR code. The Caper Cart helps customers find the items they are buying and automatically checks them off their list as they are added to the cart.
  • Carrot Tags: Retailers can connect electronic shelf labels to the Instacart platform to add pick-to-light capabilities. Shoppers select an item on their phone and the corresponding shelf label will flash when found. The tags also indicate whether products are gluten-free, organic, kosher, SNAP EBT eligible, and other information to aid in discovery.
  • FoodStorm department orders: Building on its acquisition of online catering ordering platform FoodStorm last October, this feature allows shoppers to order from multiple departments, such as deli and bakery, and have them ready at the same time.
  • Insights into out-of-stock quantities: An application programming interface (API), Out of Stock Insights, gives store associates automatic, real-time alerts when items are running low or out of stock.
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Tried and tested at select retailers, the technology will make its debut at Bristol Farms supermarket in Irvine, CA.

The launch comes as Instacart has begun offering software services to retailers, backed by several acquisitions — including e-commerce platform Rosie, which powers local and independent grocers, and Eversight’s AI-powered pricing suite expected IPO.

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Execution issues aside, does Instacart’s Connected Stores suite seem to go a long way in bridging the online and offline grocery shopping experience? Should grocers have concerns about Instacart as a technology partner?

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brain trust

“The consistent narrative and plot should give grocers confidence that Instacart is an ally, not a competitor, at least for now.”