business news in context, analysis with attitude

Instacart this morning announced what it called "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."  The goal of the updates, the company said, is "to help retailers advance their e-commerce, digitize their stores, and build AI-powered omnichannel experiences for customers."

Among the upgrades to the Instacart Storefront is "AI-powered conversational search … 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." The company said that "this capability uses OpenAI’s ChatGPT models alongside Instacart’s own product data and AI models."

The company said that it also is 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."

The Caper Cart updates include "upgraded AI models that improve the speed and precision of camera and weight sensors on our latest version" of the smart carts.  In addition, Instacart introduced "a new Caper Cart dock, which lets retailers provide a permanent place for Caper Carts to be stored and charged."  The stacked design allows customer to access and return the carts "just like they would with traditional shopping carts – no need for carts to be plugged in individually."

Instacart also announced this morning a chainwide partnership with Giant Eagle "to power same-day delivery in as fast as an hour from more than 200 grocery stores across Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, and Maryland."

KC's View:

I'm particularly interested in the conversational AI component of this - it will be an enormous advantage for retailers who are able to access it in a way that creates stronger relationships with shoppers.  Conversational AI has the ability to nurture a kind of easy intimacy between the retailer and the shopper, with the technology serving as a critical link.