Instacart releases new omnichannel and AI solutions for grocery

Instacart is bringing AI-powered conversational search to the new Instacart Storefront so customers can ask open-ended questions.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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  • Instacart introduced several major updates to Instacart Storefront and Caper Carts, including building out AI-powered omnichannel experiences for customers.
  • Instacart is bringing AI-powered conversational search to the new Instacart Storefront so customers can ask open-ended questions.
  • Instacart is also introducing a new “In-Store” mode, which turns retailers’ apps into companions when customers shop in stores.
Instacart AI-powered search
Instacart AI-powered search

Instacart introduced 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 grocery – and commerce in general – isn’t online or in-store, it’s both,” said Asha Sharma, chief operating officer, in a press release. “And now, more than ever, it’s being supercharged with AI. 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 catalog – which is one of the largest in the industry and includes 1.4 billion items and more than 6,000 item updates per second – paired with more than a decade of knowledge about how people shop for groceries online."

Instacart Storefront updates

Instacart Storefront is an end-to-end omnichannel digital commerce platform designed specifically for grocery, that brings Instacart’s technology to retailers’ owned-and-operated storefronts – including Costco in the U.S. 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 more innovations, faster – including 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 tech.

Instacart Caper Cart deals
Instacart Caper Cart deals

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 day – and hundreds per second during peak time – and this capability uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT models alongside Instacart’s own product data and AI models.

Instacart is also 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 list – such as nutrition information or whether they’re EBT SNAP-eligible – get 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. 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. Retailers also canupgrade to the Pro tier to unlock premium features. 

Caper Cart updates

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

Instacart In-store Mode
Instacart In-store Mode
  • Upgraded AI models that improve the speed and precision of camera and weight sensors on the latest version of Caper Cart. The models update automatically and learn over time, aiding the scanless technology. 
  • The ability to order made-to-order items such as deli sandwiches or custom cakes directly from the carts – powered by FoodStorm, Instacart’s order management solution. Customers can order from their Caper Cart as they browse the aisles, and shoppers will not need to walk 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 such as 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 offer stacked charging, so customers access and return them like they would with traditional shopping carts.

Last month, Maplebear Inc., which operates as Instacart, filed to go public on Nasdaq. Instacart reported reaching 7.7 million monthly active orderers who spend approximately $317 per month on average on Instacart for the month ended June 30.