Instacart has acquired the AI-powered shopping cart and technology platform Caper AI. With this acquisition, the San Francisco-based grocery platform says it aims to help retailers unify the in-store and online shopping experience for customers, supporting their businesses in however customers choose to shop.
Caper is reimagining the in-store shopping journey by developing AI-powered shopping carts and automated checkout counters that bring together online and offline shopping to create a new shopping experience for customers, says Instacart.
Through Caper’s object recognition system, customers can place items into their carts—such as fruits, vegetables and other items—without having to scan or weigh them, and then check out right at the cart. Caper also develops smart checkout counters that use cameras and a weight sensor to auto-detect items placed on its counter, creating an easier and faster express checkout flow for customers at grocery and convenience stores, says the company.
In addition to streamlining the in-store shopping and check out process, Caper helps create unique and more personalized shopping experiences. Caper’s carts feature touch-enabled screens that let customers navigate brick-and-mortar grocery store aisles more seamlessly, says Instacart. The screens also make product suggestions based on what’s in a customer’s cart.
Over time, Instacart expects to integrate Caper’s technology into the Instacart app and the e-commerce websites and apps of its retail partners, allowing customers to build online shopping lists and browse recipes ahead of time and check off their lists as they go. And, for Instacart shoppers who shop on behalf of customers, they can also utilize the carts to find items more efficiently and bypass long checkout lines.
“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,” said Instacart CEO Fidji Simo in a statement. “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.
“That’s why we’re thrilled to welcome the Caper AI team to Instacart,” Simo continued. “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.”
Instacart’s acquisition of Caper comes on the heels of its recent FoodStorm acquisition, which offers order-ahead and catering technology for retailers that is designed to increase sales and ensure more customers are turning to them for everyday meals, said Simo.
Caper’s smart cart technology provides a plug-and-play solution for brick-and-mortar retailers of all sizes that requires little capital expenditure, says the company. Its smart carts are currently deployed at Instacart’s retail partners in North America, including Kroger, Schnucks and Wakefern, as well as Sobeys in Canada and Auchan in France and Spain. This is in addition to their smart checkout counters in convenience stores.
Earlier this year, the Cincinnati-based Kroger began quietly testing Caper’s smart carts, calling them “KroGO powered by Caper.”
“At Kroger, our goal is to connect customers to food – no matter how they want to shop or when they need it,” said Stephanie Jenkins, Kroger’s VP of strategic partnerships. “Kroger is proud to be leading the industry in the adoption of new innovative technologies, including Caper AI smart carts, as well as partnering with Instacart on other industry-leading innovations like Kroger Delivery Now. These offerings are advancing Kroger’s thriving seamless ecosystem and providing our customers with more ways to shop with us through strategic collaborations.”
“We’re excited for Instacart to join forces with Caper AI to help scale their technology and make it more accessible,” said Bob Hardester, chief Information and supply chain officer at the St. Louis, Mo.-based Schnuck Markets Inc. “Caper AI’s smart carts are the most technologically advanced carts out there. We believe the ability to place items in the cart naturally—without having to scan barcodes or weigh items—will be a game changer, especially for Instacart shoppers who shop on behalf of customers. We’re proud to continue working with Caper AI and Instacart to unlock even more innovative solutions that reimagine the in-store grocery shopping experience at Schnucks stores.”
Caper notes that its smart carts were the first carts in the U.S. approved by the federal government’s National Type Evaluation Program, which certifies that it can accurately sell items that are priced by weight and measures, like produce and bulk items.
“I’m incredibly proud of the business we’ve built and the technological leap forward our products represent for the entire grocery industry,” said Lindon Gao, co-founder and CEO of Caper AI. “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. 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.”