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Instacart offers generative AI-based recommendations

Ask Instacart
Instacart has a new AI-based customer assistant.

Instacart is leveraging the capabilities of generative artificial intelligence (AI) to assist customers with their grocery shopping.

The grocery technology company is launching Ask Instacart, an AI-based chatbot that utilizes the Open AI ChatGPT API, as well as its own AI models and proprietary catalog data. ChatGPT is a generative AI model that interacts with users in a conversational style that mimics human interaction and leverages machine learning (ML) to continually refine and improve its responses.

Ask Instacart enables customers to ask questions about what to eat and how to make it. Starting to roll out to Instacart customers on May 31, 2023 and scaling to all U.S. and Canadian customers over the coming weeks, Ask Instacart is directly embedded in the search bar in the Instacart app.

The chatbot is designed to provide customers with product recommendations that are intuitively organized, as well as additional relevant information about food preparation, product attributes, and dietary considerations. The AI-enhanced search experience also incorporates personalized question prompts into the search bar that anticipate customer preferences, remind them of their needs based on their shopping history, and suggest new products.

Specific examples of how customers can utilize Ask Instacart include:

  • Better understand what ingredients or dishes pair well with others, like, “What kind of side dishes should I serve with lamb chops?”
  • Discover alternative ingredients that can be swapped for one another, like, “What fish is similar to salmon?”
  • Get more information on cooking techniques, like, “What are good sauces for grilling chicken?”
  • Generate lists of ingredients if they have a meal in mind, like, “What can I use in a stir fry?” 
  • Learn more about item attributes so they can get personalized dietary inspiration, like, “What are dairy-free snacks for kids?”
  • Discover context-specific suggestions for more open-ended queries, like, “What are the best veggies to roast?”

Ask Instacart will also help match consumer needs, through the questions asked, with brand partners’ sponsored product campaigns.

The Ask Instacart launch is part of a suite of AI-native initiatives Instacart plans to roll out over the coming years. In March 2023, the company debuted an Instacart plugin for ChatGPT, which lets ChatGPT users describe their food needs in natural language to have ingredients delivered in as fast as an hour.

Since that launch, the Instacart plugin has been made available to all ChatGPT Plus subscribers, and Instacart has plans to roll out additional plugins with the Microsoft Bing and Google Bard platforms in the coming months. 

“A simple question like ‘What's for dinner?’ is among the most complex for families everywhere to answer. From decisions about budget and dietary specifications to cooking skills, personal preferences, and so much more, Ask Instacart can help customers answer all of their food questions and deliver the ingredients for the perfect meal in as fast as an hour,” said J.J. Zhuang, chief Aachitect at Instacart. “Whether it’s, ‘What’s the best fish for tacos?’ or ‘What should I make for a Memorial Day barbecue?,’ by supercharging Instacart search with generative AI we can create a truly inspiring experience that unlocks even more opportunities to engage and help customers as they shop online from their favorite retailers.”

Instacart partners with more than 1,200 national, regional, and local retail banners to facilitate online shopping, delivery and pickup services from more than 80,000 stores across North America on the Instacart Marketplace.

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