NEWSTech

Instacart’s new service lets you skip the checkout line with smart shopping cart

Instacart's new Caper Cart

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Instacart is launching its Connected Stores program consisting of six new technologies combining online and in-store shopping to create a personalized experience.

The program is first coming to a Bristol Farms location in Irvine, California, according to the announcement (opens in new tab), with plans to expand. Prior to this, Instacart tested a pilot version of Connected Stores across the United States and Canada at select retailers including Schnucks and Joseph’s Classic Market. These locations will get “elements of Connected Stores” with the rollout date still pending. Not all stores will have the full suite of features, however. According to an Instacart representative, it’s up to the retailers themselves to decide what they want to support. 

The Bristol Farms in Irvine, for example, will have five of the six features. Out of Stock Insights will be not available at that location, but it won’t really impact the customers as it’s more for the retailer. What it does is provide the store with “real-time alerts” whenever products are running low or out of stock.  

The rest of the suite is much more focused on helping customers with their shopping.

Connected Stores features

Leading the suite is Instacart’s improved Caper Cart, a smart shopping cart. It comes equipped with scales, sensors, and a touchscreen above the handles, giving shoppers a read-out of whatever they just placed in the cart.

According to the video demo, (opens in new tab) placing produce in the cart triggers the touchscreen to display an item’s weight and price. It also allows shoppers to check out right from the screen without having to go to a lane at the front of the store. There’s a credit card reader next to the screen for payment. Compared to the older model, the new Caper Cart is more lightweight and slimmer while holding “65 percent more capacity”. 

The Caper Cart will also support the new Lists tool, allowing people to display a shopping list created in the Instacart app on the touchscreen. As you shop, the feature will inform you where you can find everything on the list and check off items as they are added.

Next is Scan & Pay, which allows shoppers to use their smartphones to scan and buy items. The feature won’t be a standalone app or an upgrade to the existing Instacart app. According to Instacart, a QR code will be placed at a store’s entrance that people can scan with their phone to be taken to Scan & Pay website. It’ll also highlight products that are eligible for EBT SNAP (better known as food stamps) and can be connected to Instacart accounts so you can easily repurchase items.

Then there’s Carrot Tags, another QR code feature that will display important information about a food product on the Instacart app. Codes can be found on product tags for select items. After scanning, the app will let you know if something is “gluten-free, organic, kosher, or EBT SNAP eligible.” 

The final tool is the rather conventional Department Orders. It’s not an app or brand-new tech. Department Order is simply a touchscreen podium (opens in new tab) where shoppers can order food from different departments like the deli or bakery and have it ready when they swing by. 

New shopping tech

In recent years, retailers have been expanding in order to meet an ever-changing consumer environment. Some, like Amazon, have been focusing on making in-store shopping more efficient. The company recently expanded its palm-reading payment service to select Whole Foods locations across California. While other retailers, like Walmart, are taking to the sky by providing drone deliveries in more rural areas of the United States. 

If you’re interested in learning how tech companies are taking old ways of shopping and making them new, TechRadar’s Hamish Hector recently did a story on Amazon bringing mall shopping to the home. The pilot program is currently limited to 15 cities across the US.

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