Instacart is launching its Connected Stores program, which consists of six new technologies that combine online and in-store shopping to create a personalized experience.
The program first came to Bristol Farms in Irvine, California, According to the announcement (opens in new tab), plans to expand. Prior to this, Instacart tested a pilot version of Connected Stores in the US and Canada at select retailers including Schnucks and Joseph’s Classic Market. The locations will get “elements of the connected store,” but a launch date has yet to be determined. However, not all stores have the full set of features. According to an Instacart representative, it’s up to retailers to decide what they want to support.
For example, Owen’s Bristol Farm will feature five of the six. Out of Stock Insights won’t be available at that location, but it won’t really impact customers as it’s better suited for retailers. What it does is provide stores with “real-time alerts” when products are running low or out of stock.
The rest of the kit is more focused on helping customers shop.
Connected Store Features
The leading kit is Instacart’s improved Caper Cart, a smart shopping cart. It’s equipped with a scale, sensors and a touchscreen above the handle, allowing shoppers to read out anything they’ve just put in their cart.
according to video presentation, (opens in new tab) Adding a product to the cart triggers the touchscreen to display the item’s weight and price. It also allows shoppers to check out directly from the screen without having to go to the driveway in front of the store. There is a credit card reader next to the payment screen. Compared to the old model, the new Caper Cart is lighter, thinner, and has “65 percent more capacity.”
Caper Cart will also support the new Lists tool, allowing people to display shopping lists created in the Instacart app on a touchscreen. When you shop, the feature notifies you where to find everything on the list, and checks for items as you add them.
Next up is Scan & Pay, which allows shoppers to scan and buy items using their smartphones. This feature will not be a standalone app or an upgrade to an existing Instacart app. According to Instacart, a QR code will be placed at the store’s entrance, which people can scan with their mobile phones and take them to the Scan & Pay website. It will also highlight products that are eligible for EBT SNAP (better known as food stamps) and can be linked to your Instacart account so you can easily repurchase items.
Then there’s the carrot sticker, another QR code feature that displays important information about food items on the Instacart app. The code can be found on the product label of the selected item. After scanning, the app will let you know if something is “gluten-free, organic, kosher, or EBT SNAP eligible.”
The last tool is the rather traditional departmental command. It’s not an app or brand new technology.A departmental order is only a touch screen podium (opens in new tab) Shoppers can order food from different departments like deli or bakery and have it ready as they pass by.
In recent years, retailers have been scaling up to meet the changing consumer environment. Some, like amazon, has been focused on making in-store shopping more efficient. The company recently expanded its handheld reading payment service to Whole Foods in California. And other retailers, like walmartis offering drone deliveries in more rural areas of the United States.
If you’re interested in seeing how tech companies are taking the old way of shopping and giving it a new look, TechRadar’s Hamish Hector recently did a story on Amazon, bringing mall shopping to the home. The pilot program is currently limited to 15 U.S. cities.