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Schnucks announced yesterday that it is deploying Instacart's AI-powered Caper Carts "across select St. Louis stores," with a broader rollout planned.

According to the announcement, "Caper Carts automatically identify items as they are added to the cart using computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI), allowing customers to bag as they shop, skip the line and seamlessly checkout on the Cart from anywhere in the store."

The carts are similar to the Amazon Dash Carts that are employed in some of its bricks-and-mortar stores.

Instacart says that "for the first time, select Caper Carts will feature a bottom rack for bulky and heavy items. In addition to fully automated Caper Carts that automatically detect items as they are placed in the cart, Schnucks will also be testing a Lite version, where customers manually scan items before placing them in the Cart. Caper Carts can be wirelessly upgraded with new features and are the only smart cart on the market to offer stacked charging so that they do not have to be plugged in individually or undergo labor intensive battery swaps.

"Customers will also be able to use their Schnucks Rewards account with the Caper Cart to get a more convenient, personalized experience – giving them easy access to clipped promotions and allowing them to view deals from the weekly circular as they browse the aisles."

Chace MacMullan, Senior Director of Digital Experience at Schnucks, aid in a prepared statement, "We believe the future of grocery will lean heavily into personalization – whether it’s achieved through in-store smart carts or by providing the best possible e-commerce experience for our customers. We aim to make customers feel like each shopping experience was custom-made for them, and we’re excited to take another big step forward."

KC's View:

I agree with MacMullan.  The future of grocery retailing - and the ultimate winners - will depend on retailers' ability to personalize the experience as well as reduce friction whenever and wherever possible.

That's one of the reason that I continue to believe in the long-term potential for checkout-free shopping, whether it is achieved through smart shopping carts or technologies that allow folks to simply walk out without going through traditional checkout lanes.

Smart retailers will be aggressive about testing technologies like these, as well as things like automatic replenishment, that allow the retailer to have a deeper understanding of what the customer wants and how the customer behaves, and then remove anything that creates friction.