Instacart Streamlines In-Store and Online Offerings for Grocers

The omnichannel shopping technology, which includes smart carts and order management systems, will debut at a Bristol Farms grocery store in Irvine, California.
a person pushes a smart shopping cart with a carrot logo on the side
  • Instacart will offer new technology to its grocery store partners as part of its new Connected Store effort.
  • The program is meant to help retailers marry their online stores with their in-store experiences.
  • New features include an updated Caper Cart, electronic shelf labels and out-of-stock alerts. 

Instacart this week outlined technologies it will offer as part of its new Connected Store initiative as it focuses on providing services to grocers for in-store use.

“We believe the future of grocery won’t be about choosing between shopping online and in-store consumers are going to do both,” said Fidji Simo, Instacart’s CEO, in a release. “Through these technologies, we can now offer consumers the best of online shopping inside physical stores, and vice-versa. Ultimately, we believe that the more customers connect with grocers across both online and in-store experiences, the more retailers’ businesses will grow.”

The new technologies offered by Instacart aim to streamline the omnichannel efforts of its grocery retail partners, marrying their online shopping services with their in-store shopping experiences. The new technologies from Instacart, according to the release, include: 

  • The New Caper Cart: The new Caper Cart is an updated product from Instacart built from its 2021 purchase of smart cart company Caper. It’s an AI-powered shopping cart that includes scales, sensors and touchscreens. Instacart says these carts are slimmer and lighter than their predecessors and have 65% more capacity. They allow consumers to place items in their carts without scanning them. Grocers also can now stack the carts and charge batches of them at once, Instacart said. 
  • Scan & Pay: Consumers can scan items as they shop using an app on their phones, so they don’t have to wait in a check-out line. The purchases are tracked in a customer’s account, so they can re-order the items in the future.
  • Lists: Before a consumer comes to the store, they can create a grocery list on the Instacart app. Then, they can sync the list to the Caper Cart, which will direct them to the items in the store.
  • Carrot Tags: These electronic shelf tags feature product information and scannable QR codes. Shoppers can additionally press a button on their phone to flash a light on a tag to help them locate a particular item. They can also scan the QR code to learn details about a product, like whether it’s gluten-free or eligible for purchase under SNAP. 
  • FoodStorm Department Orders: The order management system (OMS) allows customers to order items like deli sandwiches and bakery goods while they shop in the store. Different departments in the grocery store can also use the OMS to collaborate, according to Instacart. The company last year acquired FoodStorm and this year integrated its features into its app, allowing customers to place online catering orders for delivery. 
  • Out-of-Stock Insights: The API provides real-time alerts to store employees to alert them when the stock of a product is running low. 

Instacart is working with Good Food Holdings, which owns several grocery brands, to open the first grocery store using the Connected Store technology at a Bristol Farms store in Irvine, California. Bristol Farms is a luxury grocery chain that currently operates 14 locations in Southern California.  

“As customers have adopted delivery and pickup over the past year, we’ve found it increasingly important to evolve our business with omnichannel customers at the forefront,” said Neil Stern, CEO of Good Food Holdings, in a release. “As we look to the next decade of grocery, we want to make sure that we’re providing an inspirational shopping trip for our customers – and this starts by building a Connected Store.”

Instacart earlier in September also acquired the AI-powered platform Eversight, which allows GPG brands and retailers to test and scale custom pricing and promotions with individual customers, as Retail Leader reported.

Retailers continue to amp up their technology to improve shopping experiences for their associates and customers. Walmart Canada, for example, recently said it would use AI-powered cameras to help its associates better keep inventory on shelves. The retailer said it was partnering with Focal Systems to launch the system nationwide after a previous test at 70 of its locations, according to a Retail Leader report.