Can Instacart marry in-store and online grocery shopping experiences?
Instacart last week unveiled Connected Stores, a bundle of six Instagram-linked technologies aiming to combine the convenience, speed and personalization of online grocery shopping with the inspiration and discovery that happens in physical stores.
The technologies, some of which support Instacart shoppers and retail associates, include:
- Upgraded Caper Cart: Acquired by Instacart last October, the AI-powered smart “Caper Cart” uses scales, sensors, touchscreens and computer vision to enable customers to place items in the cart and checkout without manually scanning items. The updated model is slimmer and lighter with 65 percent more capacity.
- Scan & Pay: For grocers not wanting smart carts, the feature enables customers to use their mobile phones to scan items as they shop and pay for them. Items bought can be linked to customers’ online shopping accounts to make them easy to buy again.
- Lists: Customers can sync their shopping lists directly to a Caper Cart by scanning a QR code. The Caper Cart helps customers locate the items they are shopping for 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 display whether products are gluten-free, organic, kosher, SNAP EBT-eligible and other information to support discovery.
- FoodStorm Department Orders: Building on last October’s acquisition of online catering order platform FoodStorm, the feature lets shoppers order from multiple departments, such as deli and bakery, and have them ready at the same time.
- Out of Stock Insights: 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.
Piloted at select retailers, the technology will debut at Bristol Farms supermarket in Irvine, CA.
The launch comes as Instacart has started offering software services to retailers backed by several acquisitions — also including the Rosie e-commerce platform supporting local and independent grocers and Eversight AI-powered pricing suite — ahead of an expected initial public offering.
- Instacart Announces ‘Connected Stores’ Technology to Help Grocers Seamlessly Unify the Online and In-Store Shopping Experience for Consumers – Instacart
- Instacart launches Connected Stores, a suite of in-store tech for retailers – TechCrunch
- Instacart launches suite of new features to make grocery stores smarter – Fast Company
- Instacart Revenue Growth Accelerates Ahead of Planned IPO – The Wall Street Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Execution issues aside, does Instacart’s Connected Stores suite appear to go a long way in bridging the online and offline grocery shopping experience? Should grocers have concerns over Instacart as a technology partner?