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03/24/2022

Instacart launches Amazon-style e-commerce platform

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Instacart Platform
Instacart is hosting enterprise operations for retailers.

Instacart is launching a new offering that turns the on-demand delivery provider into a hosted omnichannel commerce solution.

The company is rolling out a new feature called Instacart Platform, which offers a range of enterprise technologies retailers can use a la carte or as a suite. Instacart Platform is comprised of:

  • E-commerce storefronts custom-built for grocers. with a-la-carte recommendation and merchandising capabilities.
  • Fulfillment solutions for grocers to perform online delivery and pickup from stores or warehouses, ranging from 15-minute ultrafast to next-day delivery.
  • Digital integrations and connected hardware to enhance the brick-and-mortar store experience, from scanless carts to technology that helps manage operations.
  • Advertising solutions to help brands connect and engage with consumers in the digital aisles.
  • Data tools to help retailers optimize operations, provide more connected experiences, and make informed business decisions.

“The grocery industry is undergoing a digital transformation where customers expect a seamless experience across many channels, but behind the scenes it’s taking an incredible amount of work and investment for retailers to deliver these new services,” said Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart. “We’re looking to change that with Instacart Platform. We started as the e-commerce and fulfillment partner of choice for grocers, and we’ve been building on that foundation to broaden and deepen our capabilities, in order to help retailers innovate faster than ever on their own properties.”

As of Thursday, March 24, Instacart is launching three new capabilities as part of Instacart Platform: 

  • Carrot Ads brings Instacart advertising technology and capabilities to retailers’ owned and operated e-commerce sites, with monetization options including revenue share models. The company began offering CPG brands targeted access to its customers in October 2021 and launched a self-service search ad platform in 2020. Instacart is currently piloting its new ad service with Schnuck Markets Inc., Good Food Holdings, Plum Market, and other select retailers, with plans to roll it out more broadly later this year. 
  • Carrot Warehouses is a full-stack solution within Instacart Platform, designed to enable end-to-end fast delivery solutions customized to retailer needs, including building new nano-fulfillment centers (NFCs), devising floor plans, establishing automation services, and running ongoing operations. Amazon has long provided retailers third-party warehousing and fulfillment services, including a same-day offering launched in October 2021. Carrot Warehouses will support 15-minute ultrafast delivery for Publix customers in Atlanta and Miami over the coming months.
  • Carrot Insights gives retailers near real-time visibility into their operations with dashboards tracking key performance and operational metrics, such as order volumes and out-of-stocks, across Instacart Platform and retailers’ own Instacart app storefronts. Instacart’s new data analytics software is designed to help retailers better understand geographic sales, out-of-stocks, and customer buying trends. Key Food is a current Carrot Insights user.

The rollout of Instacart Platform is the clearest sign yet that Instacart wants to join major technology providers such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. Throughout 2021, Instacart made several other moves in this direction. 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 its micro-fulfillment initiative, designed to bring automated technology solutions to retailers across the U.S. and Canada. And in October, the company acquired FoodStorm, an order management system provider whose technology enables end-to-end order-ahead and catering services for grocery retailers.  

“Our goal is to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience. Partnering with Instacart and leveraging Instacart Platform technologies has enabled us to build, maintain, and grow a robust e-commerce business,” said Bob Hardester, chief information and supply chain officer at Schnuck Markets Inc. “We’re excited to expand our long-standing partnership by launching Carrot Ads to power advertising across our digital offering amongst other capabilities, and give customers even more ways to discover new products and old favorites from Schnucks.”

“Instacart Platform continues to fuel our omnichannel strategy, powering delivery and curbside pickup across our markets. Our partnership also enables Publix to serve customers in new ways, solving for additional customer use cases by enabling meals delivery and virtual convenience,” said Maria Brous, director of communications at Publix. “Our new NFCs, built with Instacart Platform, unlock ultrafast delivery in our major metro areas, allowing customers to get what they need in as fast as 15 minutes.” 

Instacart partners with more than 750 national, regional and local retailers to facilitate online grocery shopping, delivery and pickup services from more than 70,000 stores across more than 5,500 cities in North America.