In an effort to join in-store and online shopping experiences, Instacart acquired “smart” shopping cart company Caper Inc. in a $ 350 million cash and stock transaction.
New York-based Caper’s artificial intelligence (AI)-based cart allows shoppers to scan the items they select from grocery store shelves and pay for them directly through the cart, eliminating the need to checkout. the queue at the checkout. Instacart said on Tuesday that the Caper AI cart will be part of its list of solutions for retail partners, which includes the Instacart online shopping marketplace, enterprise e-commerce services, fulfillment technology for delivery and pickup, last mile delivery and other offers. The Caper team will also join Instacart’s product and technology bench, providing material expertise.
Caper Cart uses AI and machine learning to digitize products as customers place them in the cart, which has a built-in scale for items sold by weight. A touchscreen near the cart handle displays a running count of selected items, and a connected point-of-sale card terminal allows customers to pay for their purchases directly at the cart. Buyers pack their own groceries and after payment is made, they leave the store.
In addition to tracking purchases, the cart screen can display product recommendations and promotional offers – based on the contents of a customer’s cart – as well as provide referral capabilities to help shoppers navigate more easily. the aisles of grocery stores, according to Instacart and Caper. Buyers can also scan their loyalty card during checkout directly from the shopping cart.
San Francisco-based Instacart said it plans to eventually integrate Caper’s technology into the Instacart app and the websites and e-commerce apps of its retail partners, which will allow customers to build lists of online shopping and browse recipes ahead of time and check off lists as you go. they shop.
The technology will also bring benefits to Instacart personal shoppers who pick and pack orders online, as they will be able to use the Caper shopping cart to find products more efficiently and bypass payment lines, Instacart noted.
“Over the years, Instacart has continued to expand its retail support services, helping traditional grocers across North America move their businesses online, grow and meet the changing needs of their customers. . As we look to the future, we are focused on creating even more ways for retailers to develop unified commerce offerings that help meet the needs of consumers both online and in-store, ”said Instacart CEO Fiji Simo said in a statement. “This is why we are delighted 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 providing customers with the best possible experience. We’re excited to bring Caper’s leading smart carts and smart payment platform to more retailers around the world as we all reimagine the future of grocery shopping.
Caper marks Instacart’s second acquisition this month. On October 7, Instacart announced the purchase of FoodStorm, whose order management software as a service will allow Instacart’s retail partners to offer online catering services to order in advance.
“We will continue to deepen our investment in our suite of enterprise technology services, unlocking new solutions that help power full e-commerce platforms for retailers across North America,” added Simo.
With Caper’s technology, Instacart said it will be able to support retail partners no matter how their customers choose to shop. Caper noted that its smart cart offers grocery stores and other retailers a plug-and-play standalone checkout solution that doesn’t require a store modernization or operational overhaul to roll out quickly. Additionally, for small format retailers such as convenience stores, Caper offers the Caper Counter, which uses cameras and a weight sensor in a “smart box” to automatically detect items placed on a counter, providing a checkout service. self-service for -Go customers.
The companies noted that Caper’s smart carts were the first carts in the United States to be approved by the federal government’s National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP), which certifies that it can accurately sell items by weight and weight. measures, such as products and bulk items.
“I am incredibly proud of the company we have built and the technological leap our products represent for the entire food industry. The powerful technology we have created is intuitive for customers, easy to deploy for retailers of all sizes, and creates a physical retail ecosystem that has never existed before, ”commented Lindon Gao, Co-Founder and CEO by Caper. “We share Instacart’s vision of enabling grocery retailers to deliver new innovations that create significant change for their businesses, and we’re proud to now partner with Instacart to develop even more solutions that help bring together online and offline for retailers. “
Caper’s smart cart is already being tested at American grocers such as The Kroger Co., Wakefern Food Corp. and Schnuck Markets. Sobeys Inc., one of the largest food and drug retailers in Canada, has deployed the Caper Cart since the technology launched in October 2019, while the New York supermarket Foodcellar & Co. has put into operation. the Caper Cart earlier in 2019. Auchan has also deployed smart carts in France and Spain.
Marked as “KroGO” by Kroger, the Caper Cart began testing at a Kroger-banner store in Cincinnati in October 2020.
“Kroger is proud to be at the forefront of the industry in adopting innovative new technologies, including Caper AI smart carts, as well as partnering with Instacart on other cutting edge innovations like Kroger Delivery Now Said Stephanie Jenkins, vice president of strategic partnerships. at Kroger, based in Cincinnati. “These offerings advance Kroger’s thriving and cohesive ecosystem and provide our customers with more ways to shop with us through strategic collaborations.”
St. Louis-based Schnucks sees Caper’s technology as a benefit to both its in-store customers and Instacart’s personal shoppers who fulfill online orders at its stores.
“We are delighted that Instacart is partnering with Caper AI to help evolve their technology and make it more accessible,” Bob Hardester, CIO and Supply Chain, Schnuck Markets. “Caper AI’s smart carts are the most technologically advanced carts. We believe the ability to place items in the cart naturally – without having to scan barcodes or weigh the items – will be a game-changer, especially for Instacart buyers who buy on behalf of customers. We’re proud to continue working with Caper AI and Instacart to unlock even more innovative solutions that reinvent the in-store grocery shopping experience at Schnucks stores.
Overall, Instacart partners with more than 600 North American retailers, including 175 local, regional and national grocery stores, and delivers from nearly 55,000 stores in more than 5,500 cities in the United States and Canada. . Its online shopping and delivery service is accessible to more than 85% of American households and 90% of Canadian households.