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Instacart Debuts ‘Connected Stores’ Tech for Grocers

The omnichannel shopping experience — including smart carts, electronic shelf labels and out-of-stock alerts — will launch at Bristol Farms in California.
a close up of a store

Instacart has unveiled Connected Stores, a bundle of six new Instacart Platform technologies created to help grocers bring together the best elements of online ordering and in-store shopping for consumers. 

Connected Stores offers a personalized omnichannel experience enabling consumers to shop easily with both a retailer's mobile app or website and its in-store experience. 

The first Instacart Platform-powered Connected Store will open at Bristol Farms in Irvine, California. That chain is owned by Good Food Holdings, also the parent company of Lazy Acres Natural Market, Metropolitan Market, New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets. 

The Instacart Platform offerings include:

  • The New Caper Cart: AI-powered smart carts equipped with scales, sensors, touchscreens and computer vision that power Instacart’s proprietary, scanless technology, allowing shoppers to navigate the store and checkout without manually scanning items. Instacart says the new model of the Caper Cart is slimmer and lighter than the previous version, with 65% more capacity. It includes stacked charging, so grocers can charge batches of carts at once, eliminating the need to charge carts individually or swap out batteries. 
  • Scan & Pay: Allows customers to skip checkout lines by scanning items as they shop and pay via their mobile phones. It can also link the items bought in-store to a customer’s online shopping account to make it easy to repurchase items. For EBT SNAP users, Scan & Pay identifies eligible products as soon as they are scanned. 
  • Lists: Shoppers 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 locate specific items and automatically checks them off a list as they are added to the cart. 
  • Carrot Tags: Retailers can connect electronic shelf labels to Instacart Platform to add functionality such as “pick-to-light” capabilities, which allows shoppers, associates or Instacart couriers to select an item on their phone and flash a light on its corresponding shelf tag. Carrot Tags also help retailers display key information — such as gluten-free, organic, kosher, or EBT SNAP eligible products — to drive inspiration and product discovery in stores. Carrot Tags supports an ecosystem of electronic shelf-label partners, including SES-imagotag + VUSION. 
  • FoodStorm Department Orders: FoodStorm's 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: An API that helps retailers provide automatic, real-time alerts to associates when items are running low or out of stock. 

These modular technologies will connect directly with Instacart's e-commerce solutions, including Storefront Pro, a solution offering enhanced content, search and merchandising capabilities, among other features. Select grocers of all sizes across the U.S. and Canada have already piloted some of these technologies, according to a news release from Instacart. Wakefern Food Corp., Schnucks and Joseph's Classic Market will also soon deploy 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, CEO at Instacart, in the release. "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." 

Leveraging its Storefront Pro e-commerce solution, Instacart will power Bristol Farms' online store and connect it to the physical store. All six elements of Connected Stores will launch at the California location, which is set to open in the coming months. 

"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 at Good Food Holdings, in the 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 is also debuting its Connected Stores technologies at Groceryshop 2022, which takes place Sept. 19-22. 


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