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10/19/2021

Instacart is spending US$350 million to acquire this retail tech startup

Instacart now owns Caper AI, the company behind the smart carts piloted by Sobeys

Instacart has invested US$350 million to acquire Caper--an AI-powered shopping cart and checkout technology platform.

With this latest acquisition, Instacart says it aims to help retailers unify the in-store and online shopping experience for customers, supporting their businesses no matter how customers choose to shop.

"Caper AI fits in with the strategic priority for us to be the technology partner that grocers turn to whenever they need technological capabilities to advance the future of grocery," said Instacart CEO Fidji Simo in an interview with Canadian Grocer's sister publication, Progressive Grocer.

"And we think that's particularly important in a world where Amazon is obviously making a lot of strides in grocery, and they obviously have the capabilities and financial strengths to create a lot of these new technologies, and we want our grocers to have the same advantage. We see Caper as a way to give them that advantage."

Caper AI-powered shopping carts and automated checkout counters bring together online and offline shopping to create a new in-store shopping experience for customers. 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 company also develops smart checkout counters that use cameras and a weight sensor to auto-detect items placed on its counter for faster express checkout.

"It's a great technology to help facilitate much faster checkout using a form factor that consumers are already used to. They don't have to do anything different. They have a cart. They can just drop the items into the cart and the Caper cart magically detects what is flowing into it," said Simo. 

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 make product suggestions based on what’s in a customer’s cart or even recipe ideas.

Over time, Instacart says it expects to integrate Caper’s technology into its own app and into its retail partners' apps and e-commerce sites, allowing customers to build online shopping lists and browse recipes ahead of time and check off their lists as they go.

Caper’s smart carts are currently used by U.S. grocery retailers Kroger and Wakefern, Sobeys in Canada and Auchan in France and Spain. 

Caper’s smart carts were the first carts in the United States approved by the federal government’s NTEP (National Type Evaluation Program), which certifies that it can accurately sell items that are priced by weight and measures such as produce and bulk items. 

A version of this article appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.

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