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10/19/2021

Instacart acquires ‘smart cart’ provider Caper AI

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Instacart is now providing an artificial intelligence-based shopping cart and checkout platform.

Instacart is continuing its evolution into a technology platform with the purchase of an artificial intelligence (AI)-based shopping cart and checkout platform. 

Instacart has officially acquired Caper AI, a provider of “smart cart” and automated checkout counter solutions. Caper’s object recognition system lets customers place items into their cart without having to scan or weigh them, and check out right at the cart. The carts also feature touch-enabled screens that aid navigation of brick-and-mortar grocery store aisles and make product suggestions based on what’s in a customer’s cart.

In addition, Caper develops smart checkout counters that use cameras and a weight sensor to auto-detect items placed on its counter, with the goal of creating an easier and faster express checkout flow.

Over time, Instacart expects to integrate Caper’s technology into the Instacart app and the e-commerce websites and apps of its retail partners. The online delivery platform intends to enable customers to build online shopping lists and browse recipes ahead of time and check off their lists as they go. Instacart shoppers can also utilize the carts to find items more efficiently and bypass checkout lines. 

Retailers including Canadian grocer Sobey’s, as well as current Instacart delivery partners Kroger and Wakefern, use Caper smart carts in some stores.

Instacart first began offering enterprise technology to retailers in 2017. Throughout 2021, the company has made a number of moves that strongly suggest it seeks to evolve into a broadly-based tech platform like Amazon, Apple., Google, and Facebook. In January, Instacart introduced a new model for its Instacart Pickup curbside service — Partner Pick. Through Partner Pick, a retailer’s employees utilize Instacart’s customizable pickup technology to fulfill Instacart Pickup orders. In July, the company tapped Fidji Simo, who had been serving as VP and head of the Facebook app, to assume the position of CEO.

July also saw Instacart unveil the first phase of a new micro-fulfillment initiative, designed to bring automated technology solutions to retailers across the U.S. and Canada. Most recently, the company acquired FoodStorm, an order management system provider whose technology enables end-to-end order-ahead and catering services for grocery retailers. Instacart said it plans to continue to deepen its investment in its suite of enterprise technology services.

“Over the years, Instacart has continued to expand its retailer enablement services, helping brick-and-mortar grocers across North America move their businesses online, grow and meet the evolving needs of their customers. As we look ahead, we’re focused on creating even more ways for retailers to develop unified commerce offerings that help address consumer needs across both online and in-store shopping,” said Fidji Simo, Instacart CEO, in a corporate blog post. “That’s why we’re thrilled 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 also providing customers with the best possible experience. We’re excited to bring Caper’s leading smart carts and smart checkout platform to more retailers around the world, as we all reimagine the future of grocery together.”

“I’m incredibly proud of the business we’ve built and the technological leap forward our products represent for the entire grocery industry. The powerful technology we’ve created is intuitive for customers, easy to deploy for retailers of all sizes, and creates a physical retail ecosystem that never existed before,” said Lindon Gao, Co-Founder and CEO of Caper AI. “We share Instacart’s vision of enabling grocery retailers with new innovations that create step changes for their businesses, and we’re proud to now be joining forces with Instacart to develop even more solutions that help bring the online and offline together for retailers.”

Caper’s global employee team will join Instacart as part of the acquisition. Purchase terms were not made public.