Instacart may have thrived on deliveries at the height of the pandemic, but it’s adapting to an era when many people are once again comfortable with in-person grocery shopping. The company is introducing a Connected Store “experience” that uses new and existing technology to theoretically blend the advantages of delivery apps and retail.
To start, the platform will let you pay for items by scanning them with your phone. It’s not as convenient as Amazon’s automated Just Walk Out tech, but it could save you the hassle of using a self-checkout terminal. Instacart is also rolling out a new model of its smart Caper shopping cart (pictured) with a 65 percent larger capacity and a slimmer, lighter design. You can even sync your Instacart-compatible shopping list to help find items and mark them as purchased the moment you put them in the cart. Carrot Tags light up electronic shelf labels to help you find items, while links between departments let you pick up orders from the bakery and deli without having to wait in line.
Behind the scenes, the Connected Store system will alert staff the moment an item is running low or goes out of stock. You could see fewer empty shelves, or at least fewer inventory checks.
Instacart has already been testing the related technologies with some stores, but is now making them available to retailers in the US and Canada. Outlets like Joseph’s Classic Market, Schnuck’s and Wakefern Food Corp. will use parts of the Connected Store system going forward, while Instacart is working with Bristol Farms to build a store in Irvine, California that will use the full package in the “coming months.”
The company isn’t shy about its goals. Instacart is clearly hoping to entice grocery stores that can’t (or just don’t want to) use Amazon’s platform. Retailers won’t need to install costly camera arrays or otherwise revamp whole locations, Instacart notes. This might not lure you back to the store if you prefer home deliveries, but it could deliver a meaningful upgrade to retail shopping — particularly for anyone who doesn’t shop at Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods.