Instacart unifies online and in-store grocers

  • September 27, 2022
  • William Payne

Grocery tech firm Instacart has launched a bundle of six new platform technologies to allow stores to unify their online and in-store retail experiences. Instacart’s ‘Connected Store’ allows customers to move between a retailer’s app or website and its physical store. The first Platform enabled store is being opened by Good Food Holdings in Irvine, California.

The Connected Stores bundle comprises six new offerings: the new Caper Cart, Scan & Pay, Lists, Carrot Tags, FoodStorm Department Orders and Out of Stock Insights. These are modular technologies designed to help retailers connect online and in-store experiences.

The new technologies connect directly with Instacart’s ecommerce solutions, including Storefront Pro. Grocers of all sizes across the US and Canada have conducted pilots of these technologies. Other retail chains, including Wakefern Food Corp., Schnucks, and Joseph’s Classic Market, will soon be deploying elements of Connected Stores.

“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, Chief Executive Officer at Instacart. “The launch of Connected Stores is another exciting step for Instacart as we partner with retailers to help invent the future of grocery. 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.”

“In today’s competitive environment, grocers need a technology partner that can help them digitally transform in ways that reflect and augment their unique identities while delighting customers,” said Jordan Speer, Research Director, Product Sourcing, Fulfilment, and Sustainability at IDC. “Omnichannel offerings such as Instacart’s modular Connected Stores create opportunities for grocers of all sizes to innovate in stores and offer seamless experiences across online and in-store.”

The Caper Cart is an AI-powered smart cart equipped with scales, sensors, touchscreens, and computer vision. Customers can navigate stores and check themselves out without manually scanning items. The Caper Cart features stacked charging, allowing grocers to charge batches of carts at once and eliminating the need to charge carts individually or swap out batteries.

The Scan & Pay feature allows customers to scan items as they shop and pay for them from their mobile phones so they can skip checkout lines. It can also link items bought in store to customers’ online shopping accounts, making it easy for customers to buy them again. For EBT SNAP users, Scan & Pay identifies EBT SNAP-eligible products as soon as they are scanned, making it easier to identify approved products.

With Lists, customers can sync their shopping lists from the Instacart App or a grocer’s Instacart-powered app or website 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 allow retailers to connect electronic shelf labels to Instacart Platform to add functionality such as pick-to-light capabilities, which allow customers or staff to select an item on their phone and flash a light on its corresponding shelf tag, making it easier to find the products they’re looking for. Carrot Tags also help retailers display key information – such as whether a specific product is gluten-free, organic, kosher, or EBT SNAP eligible. Carrot Tags support electronic shelf label partners including SES-imagotag + VUSION.

The FoodStorm order management system (OMS) helps retailers manage orders for items such as baked goods, hot items, and deli sandwiches while customers are shopping. The new Department Orders enables different prepared foods departments within a store to collaborate so that they can have customers’ orders ready at the right time.

Out of Stock Insights is an API that helps retailers provide automatic, real-time alerts to associates when items are running low or out of stock. For retailers, this can result in fewer missed sales opportunities; for customers, it increases the chances they can find exactly what they are looking for.

Instacart and Good Food Holdings are building the first Connected Store at their Bristol Farms location in Irvine, California. All six elements of Connected Stores will be employed at the new store which will open.

“At Good Food Holdings, we’re proud to provide our customers with a personalised shopping experience – whether they’re opting to build their baskets online or joining us in-store. 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, Chief Executive Officer at Good Food Holdings. “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. In partnership with Instacart, we’re excited to introduce multiple ways to checkout with Caper Cart and Scan & Pay, while driving inspiration through Lists and Carrot Tags. Instacart is an innovator in grocery technology, and we’re thrilled to be their partner and debut the first-ever Connected Store at Bristol Farms this year.”