Instacart updates omnichannel, AI solutions for grocers

Significant updates to Instacart Storefront and Caper Carts aim to help grocers bridge the gap between online and in-store shopping.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
instacart in store mode

Instacart is rolling out several major updates to Instacart Storefront, which powers owned-and-operated e-commerce storefronts for more than 550 retail banners and Caper Carts, Instacart's smart carts, to help retailers advance their e-commerce, digitize their stores and build AI-powered omnichannel experiences for customers.

"We've long believed the future of groceryand commerce in generalisn't online or in-store, it's both. And now, more than ever, it's being supercharged with AI," said Asha Sharma, chief operating officer. "We know that omnichannel customers in particular are more valuable to retailers, which is why Instacart is developing more solutions that help retailers serve their customers no matter how they shop. And, good data is the foundation for good AI solutions for retailers. Our operational advantage is built around our dynamic grocery catalogwhich is one of the largest in the industry and includes 1.4 billion items and more than 6,000 item updates per secondpaired with more than a decade of knowledge about how people shop for groceries online."

Instacart Storefront is an end-to-end omnichannel digital commerce platform designed specifically for grocery, that brings the best of Instacart's technology to retailers' owned-and-operated storefrontsincluding Costco in the United States and Canada, Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Friendly Markets.

The new Instacart Storefront is built on the same core infrastructure as the Instacart App, and gives retailers access to even more new innovations, fasterincluding those powered by Instacart's 150 proprietary AI models. Instacart tests new features on its app and brings the most successful ones to retailers' storefronts, giving them access to the best of the company's e-commerce technology, the company noted.

[Read more: Schnucks brings Instacart’s Caper Carts to select store]

instacart ai powered

For example, Instacart is bringing AI-powered conversational search to the new Instacart Storefront so customers can ask open-ended questions such as "What do I need to make fish tacos?" or "What's a nutritious lunch for my kids?" directly in the search bar on retailers' storefronts. Instacart processes millions of search queries a dayand hundreds per second during peak timeand this capability uses OpenAI's ChatGPT models alongside Instacart's own product data and AI models.

Instacart also is introducing a new "In-Store" mode, which turns retailers' apps into companions when customers shop in stores. In-store mode helps customers see what's in stock, view important details about items on their listsuch as nutrition information or whether they're EBT SNAP-eligibleget product recommendations, sort items by aisle and access in-store promotions and discounts. It also helps retailers better understand their customers, no matter if they shop online, in stores or both. The in-store mode will be available in select areas on retailers' Instacart Storefront-powered apps, including Food Bazaar, Gelson's and Stew Leonards, and is also being tested on the Instacart App.

"Our partnership with Instacart has played a critical role in advancing our omnichannel e-commerce strategy, enabling seamless online shopping for our customers regardless of device," said Ed Suh, executive vice president at Food Bazaar. "The new Instacart Storefront takes our partnership one step further, making the overall experience even more dynamic, equipping our team with powerful tools to showcase and market our extensive and diverse product line to our customers, and allowing for more seamless integrations, especially with critical channels such as our weekly flyer or loyalty. These powerful backend tools, combined with a more customer-friendly app shopping experience, fully aligns our e-commerce strategy with our overall commitment to convenience at every customer touchpoint."

Additionally, the new Instacart Storefront includes new merchandising and marketing capabilities such as shoppable digital flyers, more self-serve capabilities that allow anyone to become an e-commerce administrator and better tooling and analytics. It's easy to get started and retailers can upgrade to the Pro tier to unlock premium features.

[Read more:  Walmart utilizes generative AI to streamline job functions]

Instacart also unveiled a number of new updates to its Caper Carts, which are already being deployed in stores across the United States by retailers such as Bristol Farms, Schnucks, ShopRite and Fairway Market. They include:

  • Upgraded AI models that improve the speed and precision of camera and weight sensors on the company's latest version of Caper Cart. The models update automatically and learn over time, making the scanless technology even better.
  • The ability to order made-to-order items like deli sandwiches or custom cakes directly from the cartspowered by FoodStorm, Instacart's order management solution. Customers can order from their Caper Cart as they browse the aislesno more having to walk over to the deli counter or bakery, or wait in line.
  •  New in-store rewards for Caper Carts so retailers can offer customers points, coupons or badges for completing actions like logging into a loyalty account, adding certain items to the cart, or trying a Caper Cart for the first time.
  • A new Caper Cart dock, which lets retailers provide a permanent place for Caper Carts to be stored and charged. Caper Carts are the only smart cart on the market to offer stacked charging, so customers access and return them just like they would with traditional shopping cartsno need for carts to be plugged in individually.

"As a customer-first organization, we're always looking for ways to improve the shopping experience," said Neil Stern, CEO at Good Food Holdings. "We're excited about the use of smart cart technology in our stores in partnership with Instacart, enabling us to provide a seamless and user-friendly checkout processall with the goal of increasing basket size and optimizing store operations. As Instacart continues to evolve Caper Cart's technology, we'll bring greater personalization to the in-store experience as customers shop through the aisles."

"We know that our customers love shopping our weekly flyer," said Diane Colgan, senior vice president of marketing for Northeast Grocery, supporting Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops stores. "The new Instacart Storefront will make it even easier for us to offer more personalized options when they shop online or in stores. And by introducing In-Store mode, our customers will be able to shop deals no matter how they choose to shop. Introducing these new products reflects our dedication to delivering an enhanced and enjoyable digital shopping experience."

"As a local, fourth generation family-owned supermarket chain, our goal is to remain innovative and competitive so that we can continue to serve our community," said Bob Rybick, CEO at Geissler's Supermarket. "Instacart is helping us access new technologies that improve our operations, so we can stay focused on providing access to fresh, local food and the best possible customer service."

"People and technology are at the heart of the grocery industry," said Jeff Pedersen, president and CEO of Retailer Owned Food Distributors & Associates. "Anytime we can improve and enhance technology to help people, we have a recipe for success. Instacart continues to do both by enhancing their tools and helping people have a better shopping experience. What a great recipe!"

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