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From Fast Company:

"Instacart is rolling out ads on its AI-powered shopping carts … It pushes the grocery delivery company even further into the ever-important, revenue-generating advertising segment that’s bolstered the company’s bottom line. 

"Instacart will start piloting ads on its Caper Carts at Good Fold Holdings’ Bristol Farms stores in Southern California. Launch partners include Del Monte Foods, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, and General Mills, the company said."

According to the story, "Bringing advertising to the smart carts is a natural progression for the grocery tech company. Instacart has been building an extensive advertising business and courting retailers with its in-store shopping technologies as consumers return to brick-and-mortar locations following the pandemic boom."

Instacart reportedly "expects to have thousands of smart carts in stores by the end of 2024."

KC's View:

I've said it before and I'll say it again - and will probably say again and again in the future, since this trend has a lot of momentum at the moment.  People are going to get tired of being "sold" relentlessly.  Retailers and service providers have to be very careful about not killing the golden goose.  There's nothing wrong with selective selling in line with a retailer's brand proposition, but the minute it goes outside those lines - pushing products that seem inconsistent with the store's brand proposition, or creating so much noise/clutter that it becomes annoying rather than illuminating - then the whole house of cards will come crashing down.

To be clear, Instacart says that the messages communicated via smart carts will include personalized product recommendations.  And that's a fine goal.  But what happens when my purchase history is at odds with the desires of General Mills, which is writing the check, to get into my head?  (We know that General Mills is heavily involved in the lobbying efforts designed to push back against federal nutrition guidelines that would categorize ulta-processed foods as being less healthy - I would imagine that it would see these smart cart ads as a great way to push that message.)

I just thing this is a trend that, while it has a ton of opportunity, could be an enormous potential problem for any retailer that treasures its connections to its shoppers and carefully nurtures its brand identity and value proposition.