Instacart buys smart cart maker Caper AI for $350 million

Diving Brief:

  • Instacart is acquiring smart shopping cart and payment technology company Caper AI for $350 million in cash and stock, the e-commerce provider announced Tuesday.
  • Instacart will over time integrate Caper’s technology into its retail partners’ e-commerce apps and sites to create unique online and in-store experiences. The acquisition will streamline shopping for consumers, while making it easier for Instacart employees to fulfill orders, the company said.
  • This is Instacart’s second announced acquisition this year as the company seeks to bolster its technology offerings to its retail partners.

Overview of the dive:

Instacart is preparing for the future of shopping beyond the pandemic and its e-commerce boom by investing in solutions that marry offline and online shopping.

“As we look to the future, we are focused on creating even more ways for retailers to develop unified commerce offerings that help meet consumer needs both online and in-store,” Instacart CEO Fiji Simo said in the announcement.

Ultimately, Instacart sees Caper as a way to build a complete commerce. For example, with Caper, Instacart customers will be able to create shopping lists that will appear on their online account and also on the smart cart.

Founded in 2017 and based in New York, Caper offers a plug-and-play payment solution that it says is significantly less expensive to implement than store-wide systems like Amazon Go. The Caper cart uses AI-powered cameras and weight sensors to recognize items placed in the cart without having to scan or weigh them and offer interactive in-store shopping with touchscreens that can offer recommendations based on the cart, nearby offers and other features. Customers can pay with the cart, bypassing the checkout lines.

The Comptoir des Capres, which debuted last falluses cameras and a weight sensor to automatically detect items for contactless self-checkout.

The caper counter.

Courtesy of Caper

Caper’s website says it plans to add smart location sensors to allow people to search and be guided to certain items in the store. While Instagram Already has mapping technology for its employees, Caper’s technology will save them time by allowing them to bypass checkout lines, Instacart said.

Caper’s smart carts were the first carts in the United States to gain approval from the federal government’s National Type Evaluation Program, certifying that they can sell products with precision. which are priced by weight and measurement, like produce and bulk items, Instacart noted in the announcement.

Instagram said Caper’s technology will enable customers and its employees to make purchases faster and easier at grocery stores and convenience stores of all sizes. For its retail partners, Instacart said Caper’s technology increases average basket size compared to traditional shopping carts. Instacart said it will work on economies of scale with Caper to reduce hardware production costs, making carts and counters more affordable.

Caper also has a highly sought-after component: data. The carts track shoppers’ purchases and give retailers a way to provide personalized offers while they shop, according to Caper’s website. Caper’s plan to track carts will also help businesses understand shoppers’ journeys through the store and provide them with location-based product offers, according to the company.

The acquisition also adds Caper employees and their hardware expertise to Instacart’s workforce, thereby developing company knowledge of products and technologies.

For Caper, being acquired by Instacart brings it greater visibility with retailers and customers and opportunities to scale its business. The company’s customers include Sobeys, Canada’s second largest food retailer; Schnuck Markets; Foodcellar Market, an organic grocery store with two locations on Long Island; Wakefern; and Auchan in France and Spain. Last fall, Caper started piloting a brand smart cart solution with Kroger called KroGO.

Instacart’s foray into the smart cart space comes at a time when Amazon’s Dash Cart and Just Walk Out technologies – among other in-store shopping innovations like a palm-reading payment tool – have disrupted the grocery industry. Competition is heating up in smart carts and cashierless payments, with companies like shop and To go for a walk sell technology that modernizes trucks.

The acquisition is the second this year for Instacart and its fifth overall. Less than three weeks ago, Instacart said it was purchase of restaurant software company FoodStorm. Like FoodStorm, Caper will further bolster Instacart’s investment in its suite of enterprise technology services.