Instacart, with IPO imminent, announces series of AI-powered upgrades to store platform, carts


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Instacart may have an IPO coming this month — reports say the company is considering pricing its listing Sept. 19, with trading starting the following day — but it getting some AI-heavy product announcements out of the way first.

Today, the company announced several major updates to its Instacart Storefront platform, which powers ecommerce storefronts for more than 550 retail brands, including Costco in the US and Canada, Price Chopper/Market 32, and Tops Friendly Markets. The update includes conversational search powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT as well as proprietary AI models. Instacart also announced AI upgrades to its smart carts, called Caper Carts — the company acquired smart checkout startup Caper AI in 2021 for $350 million.

Instacart’s growing reputation as a tech platform

The San Francisco-based Instacart, which was founded in 2012 and controls around 22% of the $132 billion U.S. online grocery-delivery market, has long been developing a reputation as a tech platform player. It has also been developing a relationship with OpenAI for some time — it was one of the first to announce the release of a ChatGPT plugin back in March, and rolled out an “Ask Instacart” ChatGPT feature in May for the Instacart app.

The new Instacart Storefront is built on the same core infrastructure as the Instacart app, and gives retailers access to features powered by what the company says are 150 proprietary AI models. Its AI-powered conversational on the new Instacart Storefront allows 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.

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“We’ve long believed the future of grocery – and commerce in general – isn’t online or in-store, it’s both. And now, more than ever, it’s being supercharged with AI,” said Instacart COO Asha Sharma. “Good data is the foundation for good AI solutions for retailers. Our operational advantage is built around our dynamic grocery catalog – which is one of the largest in the industry and includes 1.4 billion items and more than 6,000 item updates per second – paired with more than a decade of knowledge about how people shop for groceries online.”

AI-powered smart cart upgrades

Instacart’s Caper Carts – AI-powered smart carts equipped with touchscreens, scales, sensors, and computer vision technology – also got an upgrade. In addition to being able to bag as they go and check out right from the cart, customers can now also order made-to-order items like deli sandwiches or custom cakes directly from their Caper Cart, and are notified when their order is ready for pick-up.

The company added that newly upgraded AI models also improve the speed and precision of camera and weight sensors, delivering a more seamless shopping experience and improving the detection of suspicious activity.

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