Skip to main content

Instacart’s grocery ‘smart cart’ shows how it’s about more than just deliveries

In the middle of a modern grocery store, with smooth concrete flooring, white oak shelving and white tiled walls, there’s a beige and thick-bodied plastic shopping cart. The cart has a big orange and green carrot logo printed on the side, and a tablet computer affixed to the top where a child would normally sit, as well as a digital payment terminal.
The Caper Cart has sensors that can detect what you put in it, plus a touch screen and built-in payment system for self-checkout. | Image: Instacart

Instacart gig workers have a smartphone app with scanning tools at their disposal to fulfill delivery orders — but what if regular shoppers could also use them? The grocery delivery service plans to get regular everyday shoppers into “Connected Stores,” where they’d use a rolling smart cart with built-in support for lists, order deli meats or baked goods, finding items, and self-checkout.

The star of the show is Instacart’s upgraded “Caper Cart,” a smart cart that can detect what items in your list are placed in — based on computer vision and weight — and checks them off in your app. It’s got a big touchscreen that syncs your grocery list from your app and an attached payment terminal so you can self-checkout without waiting to use a terminal. The previous versions are in operation at select Kroger stores, but those were made before Instacart acquired Caper AI a year ago.

 Image: Instacart
Multiple sensors and cameras detect products as you slowly lower them into the cart.

The new cart is slimmer, lighter, and can hold 65 percent more products in them, according to Instacart. The company claims it’s the only smart cart that can recharge its batteries by stacking carts instead of needing to swap out batteries. They also accept over-the-air software updates. But if you can’t get one of these carts, you can also use Scan & Pay in the app to check yourself out.

On the surface, this sort of goes against Instacart’s delivery service goal: to remove the inconvenience of needing to go to the grocery store yourself. But as the pandemic wanes, demand for online delivery services is dropping and hurting the bottom lines of companies like Instacart, Uber, and DoorDash.

But people like their ability to make lists, go to the store, and have stuff ready and waiting for them while also having the flexibility to call an audible and grab a few extra, unplanned items. Large grocery store chains are spending the money needed to add connected shopping and self-checkout via app, while Amazon’s cashier-less tech is becoming more available — all of which is something smaller grocers don’t have the resources to match.

That’s what Instacart has been working on: building a white label smart shopping ecosystem that it claims can give any store a digital storefront or affix an existing one to work with the Instacart app. “Today, they have traditional curbside and same-day delivery services,” e-commerce expert Kassi Socha begins to tell us what’s motivating Instacart. “When I’m at the grocery store, and I see the Instacart logo that helps me do a seamless checkout, similar to the Amazon Go experience, I might try it and adopt that new behavior because I know in some way, shape, or form Instacart is gonna save me time.”

It’s a sentiment that falls in line with US consumer shopping plans for this holiday: 38 percent of them plan to use a combination of online orders for in-store pickup, use mobile payments, use online lists, and do curbside pickup, all alongside a lighter but strong demand for same-day deliveries, according to Gartner Consumer Insights.

Socha tells The Verge that retailers big and small are looking for a ready-to-go suite of software that Instacart has to get their services up and running quickly to “compete with Amazon and Walmarts of the world at the same speed.” Instacart is currently working with over 900 retailers across 75,000 stores in North America, according to Socha.

 Image: Instacart
You scan the Caper Cart’s QR code in the Instacart app and it syncs your shopping lists. You can then pay right on the cart.

Instacart’s software suite is the core component of its Connected Stores, taking what it has learned from partnering with grocery stores like Publix and Wegmans and expanding it to smartify any grocery store. It takes all the company’s fulfillment, insights, and even advertising tools to create a vertical solution that integrates stores’ digital storefront with Instacart — something it claims will save the store money compared to a complete overhaul. Store operations will also get better stock insights and save time by ordering things that are projected to go out of stock.

For shoppers, the system isn’t quite as fast as just picking something up and walking out like the systems operating at certain Whole Foods and Amazon Go stores. You will, however, be able to do things like order deli meat, baked goods, and fresh food within the same interface. And on the grocery store’s end, an updated Instacart FoodStorm ordering system combines kiosk / ticket orders and online ones in the same place.

 GIF by Instacart
Tap a button in the app, and it can set off a beacon light on the special price tags to guide you to it.

And if you’re having trouble finding something, the company has special e-ink price tags that can flash a light, drawing your eye to the correct spot in an aisle. They’re called Carrot Tags, and often they’ll display a QR code, so you can scan it and see even more info on the product. The tag can also display other useful info on the fly, like if the product is gluten-free, kosher, organic, etc. It can even tell you if an item is EBT or SNAP eligible.

Bristol Farms in Irvine, California, will be the first of the “Connected Stores” to be fully outfitted with all of Instacart’s new technology. You will also be able to go to a Wakefern Food Corp. store to try out the Caper Carts as well. It’ll all go live “in the coming months.” Instacart’s partnership with Walmart for same-day grocery delivery was one attempt at challenging Amazon, but that partnership has ended, and now it’s seemingly prepared to try again. But Amazon may fight back as it builds tools like palm-reading biometric payment systems that’ll be available to non-Amazon companies.

Source: The Verge

Popular posts from this blog

Twitter has hidden the chronological feed on iOS again – and I'm furious

In a controversial move, Twitter has brought back a feature that removes the 'Latest Tweets' view for users on iOS, which is something that many users, including me, hated back in March 2022 – and it's now rolling out. The first time the company decided to do this, 'Home' would appear first in a tab at the top, and there was no way of changing it so that 'Latest Tweets' would be the default view. It was reverted back after the company said it was a 'bug' for iOS users. This time though, it's no bug. Instead, it's 'For You' and 'Following' where you can only swipe between them now, which doesn't make much sense for a platform where you're using the platform to keep up to date with who you follow. It's a bizarre change that makes me ask – who wants this, especially during a time when its new owner, Elon Musk, is bringing in and reversing changes almost every week still? This one change will have big consequenc

New MacBook Pro Reviews: Hands-On Look at Performance and Upgraded Specs

The new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models will start arriving to customers and launch in stores this Tuesday. Ahead of time, the first reviews of the laptops have been shared by select media publications and YouTube channels. Powered by Apple's latest M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, the new MacBook Pros offer up to 20% faster performance and up to 30% faster graphics. The laptops can be configured with up to 96GB of RAM, compared to a max of 64GB previously. Other improvements include Wi-Fi 6E, an upgraded HDMI 2.1 port with support for up to an 8K external display, and an extra hour of battery life over the previous generation. The new MacBook Pros have the same design as the previous models released in October 2021. The laptops can be pre-ordered on Apple's online store, with pricing starting at $1,999 for the 14-inch model and at $2,499 for the 16-inch model. Benchmarks Geekbench results from last week revealed that the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips offer up to around 20%

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Feature Ultra-Thin Curved Bezels

The iPhone 15 Pro models will have thinner, curved bezels compared to the iPhone 14 Pro models, potentially resulting in an Apple Watch-like appearance, according to the leaker known as " ShrimpApplePro ." ShrimpApplePro clarified that the next-generation "Pro" iPhone models will still have flat displays, since only the bezels are to be curved. According to a source speaking to the leaker, this combination of slimmer bezels and curved edges could result in a look similar to the Apple Watch Series 7 and Series 8. The curved front glass will purportedly also be present on the ‌iPhone 15‌ and ‌iPhone 15‌ Plus's design, but these devices will not have thinner bezels compared to their iPhone 14 predecessors. ShrimpApplePro added that the ‌iPhone 15‌ lineup will feature the same display sizes as last year's ‌iPhone 14‌ lineup. Last year, the leaker was among the first to say that the ‌iPhone 15‌ Pro models will have a titanium frame with curved rear ed

This new Linux malware floods machines with cryptominers and DDoS bots

Cybersecurity researchers have spotted a new Linux malware downloader that targets poorly defended Linux servers with cryptocurrency miners and DDoS IRC bots. Researchers from ASEC discovered the attack after the Shell Script Compiler (SHC) used to create the downloader was uploaded to VirusTotal. Apparently, Korean users were the ones uploading the SHC, and it’s Korean users who are targets, as well. Further analysis has shown that the threat actors are going after poorly defended Linux servers, brute-forcing their way into administrator accounts over SSH.  Mining Monero Once they make their way in, they’ll either install a cryptocurrency miner, or a DDoS IRC bot. The miner being deployed is XMRig, arguably the most popular cryptocurrency miner among hackers. It uses the computing power of a victim's endpoints to generate Monero, a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency whose transactions are seemingly impossible to track, and whose users are allegedly impossible to identify. Fo