Instacart faces a new smart cart competition

The battle for the primacy of smart carts is moving full steam ahead as segment leader Instacart is challenged by new players looking to break its dominance in the massive omnichannel grocery category.

Among the latest to come in, Japanese tech company Retail AI announced on Thursday (September 15th) that it is partnering with Toshiba Tec and its ELERA commerce platform to expand its cashierless technology to more retailers at a time when more and more customers are returning to the stores. their own races.

“Smart Shopping Cart is the first Retail AI solution, which allows shoppers to complete their shopping experience with seamless self-checkout,” the joint announcement reads, adding that the integration of Both companies’ expertise was aimed “to provide greater convenience for shoppers and more efficient operations for retailers.

Toshiba’s ELERA platform integrates with store point-of-sale and inventory systems, enabling retailers to create new in-store shopping experiences with a three-pronged solution that unifies “core microservices, IoT touchpoints and data analytics” to support innovation and new features.

See: Instacart acquires smart cart maker Caper AI to power omnichannel tech for grocery store customers

And that’s not the only new foray into this futuristic, fast-growing corner of retail. On Monday, September 12, Tel Aviv-based A2Z Smart Technologies Corp. announced a similar pilot project for its Cust2Mate smart carts with The Mall Group, one of Thailand’s leading mall operators. Fujitsu Open Retail Solutions is another big tech player tackling Instacart in two ways, both offering an Instacart-style contactless experience and now piloting in-store smart carts for consumers.

“This is another major milestone for the company as not only does it validate our offering in another region, but the integration of our solution with another world-leading POS system in the form of Fujitsu opens up a host of opportunities worldwide,” said Rafael Yam, CEO of Cust2Mate. “With existing integrations with NCR and Toshiba POS systems already underway, we have made our adoption by retailers around the world a much easier option.”

Navigate the aisles intelligently

In October 2021, Instacart acquired Caper AI, whose smart cart technology is a forerunner in the space. In August, Caper CEO and Instacart VP Lindon Gao told Karen Webster of PYMNTS that the vision extends beyond Instacart’s army of personal shoppers to the consumer.

Referring to the use of Caper Cart outside of the Instacart ecosystem, Gao said, “By simplifying checkout for customers, retailers now have the ability to take their staff who typically stand behind a cash register. Now they can walk on the floor and help customers inside the store, enriching that experience. I think ultimately it’s going to yield a much higher bottom line benefit for retailers than just achieving labor efficiency. »

Stored payment card credentials built into carts are “on the roadmap of what we potentially want to build. There are also other features like shopping lists and how we integrate them into Caper,” he added.

See: Smart carts with integrated payments put consumers in control of payment

PYMNTS research reveals that Instacart usage has remained flat in 2022 despite a massive return to in-store shopping, with around 20% of consumers shopping and using same-day delivery options at least once a week. week. Our data reveals that Instacart had a strong August with 34.4% of grocery shoppers surveyed saying they had used the service in the previous 30 days.

A flurry of Instacart announcements over the past month has seen the shopping service make a slew of strategic acquisitions and land new investments ahead of a rumored initial public offering (IPO) that could take place before the end. of 2022. Instacart’s user base would hover around 10 million consumers. It is integrated with approximately 350,000 locations.

Used in chains from Walmart to Lowe’s to Target and most heavily grocery-focused, Instacart’s next competitors aren’t typically Instacart-style remote shopping and delivery services, but artificial intelligence (AI) powered carts for in-store shoppers who want to find items more easily and check out easier.

In other words, Instacart’s slew of competitors empowers in-store shoppers to use the artificial intelligence of the personal shopper to mitigate the effect of its current dominance in this quadrant of retail technology. detail.

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