Instacart Wants to Enhance Your Shopping Experience

Written by Jennifer Clark
Posted October 20, 2021

The popular grocery delivery and pick-up app Instacart has made another big purchase to expand its business even further. The company recently announced that it’ll be acquiring Caper AI.

Caper AI is a startup that has been developing technologies that automate and enhance brick-and-mortar shopping and checkout experiences. Instacart bought Caper AI for the $350 million in cash and stock.

This purchase from Instacart will help the company enhance and expand its already existing product and development team. Instacart plans to integrate Caper AI’s technology into its Instacart app and the e-commerce websites and apps of its retail partners.

Instacart CEO Fidji Simo said this in a statement about the acquisition:

Over the years, Instacart has continued to expand its retailer enablement services, helping brick-and-mortar grocers across North America move their business online, grow, and meet evolving needs of their customers. As we look ahead, we’re focused on creating even more ways for retailers to develop unified commerce offerings that help address consumer needs across both online and in-store shopping. 

What Is Instacart?

Instacart provides its services in the United States and Canada. The company was founded back in 2012 by entrepreneur Apoorva Mehta along with Max Mullen and Brandon Leonardo. Mehta participated in Y Combinator’s summer 2012 batch, which led to the creation of Instacart.

The company has come a long way since then. It now serves more than 5,500 cities across the United States and Canada. It has partnered with more than 40,000 stores from local grocers to chain stores to offer its services. 

As you probably guessed, Instacart’s business picked up significantly in the past year and a half as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the nation and the world. In the early phase of the pandemic, there were lockdowns in place during which people were only allowed to go out for essential purposes like grocery shopping. 

And a lot of those people were either afraid of contracting COVID-19 or didn’t want to deal with long lines at grocery stores, so they signed up for Instacart and logged into the company's app to have their grocery shopping done by one of Instacart’s shoppers. 

The pandemic accelerated growth for Instacart, which recently reported a profit. In the second quarter, it reported earning of $10 million. Back in 2019, the company was losing $25 million every month, so it has come a long way. 

Instacart has become one of the largest online grocery platforms in North America — it estimates that its services are available to over 85% of U.S. households and 90% of Canadian households. Its most recent funding round earned the company $265 million, which puts it at an astounding $39 valuation — double what it was worth last October.

The company can’t depend on its current business model to always be booming, especially since only a couple of years ago it was losing a significant amount of money every month, so it makes sense that it is investing in expanding its business in new ways in order to incorporate its products into physical storefronts.

Instacart launched a tool called Instacart Advertising to boost revenue. This tool allows consumer packaged goods companies to promote their products to users in the Instcart app. The company also launched a new fulfillment solution with Fabric, a company that offers robot-powered “micro-fulfillment” services, to operate in dense metropolitan areas. 

In addition to those efforts to grow its business, Instacart acquired FoodStorm to help retailers offer prepared foods for preorder. Instacart has been using its recent success and revenue growth to invest in the future of its business.

Why Did Instacart Invest in Caper AI?

Instacart acquired Caper AI for two reasons — its two products: the Caper Cart and the Caper Counter.

The Caper Cart is a shopping cart that uses computer vision and cameras to detect what’s in the shopping car and add those items to a digital shopping list.

When an item is placed in the cart, it is identified by an algorithm that has been trained on a database of over 20 million images. The item is also analyzed so that a customer can be offered recommendations and nearby deals that relate to that item. Additionally, the cart is able to provide location-based services to help a customer locate the items in the store.

 

The Caper Cart is the first device of its kind to be approved by the U.S. federal government. The National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) has certified that this device can accurately sell items. It has been deployed already at some stores like Kroger, Sobeys in Canada, and Auchan in France and Spain.

The Caper Counter also uses artificial intelligence and cameras to scan items without having to scan a bar code. This would replace traditional self-checkout counters. You just place the items on the Caper Counter and it scans your items from five different angles to complete the transaction. 

This device also offers customer promotions and a digital receipt. Employees will be able to monitor activity to help prevent theft. 

Simo said:

We’re thrilled to welcome the Caper AI team to Instacart. We share the same goal of equipping retailers with new and innovative technologies that help them succeed in an increasingly competitive industry, while also providing customers with the best possible experience. We’re excited to bring Caper’s leading smart carts and smart checkout platform to more retailers around the world. 

Instacart is creating an even more embedded relationship between its products and brick-and-mortar retailers. If customers can have an easier shopping experience with less waiting time then more businesses and customers will turn to Instacart.

Until next time,

Jennifer Clark
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