Instacart launches first phase of automation, robotics in its fulfillment process

E-commerce leader signed a multi-year agreement with automation technology company Fabric to pair robotics, automation with its human Instacart shoppers.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Instacart is looking to automation and robotics to increase its speed of fulfillment for retailer partners in the United States and Canada.

The San Francisco-based e-commerce leader has signed a multi-year strategic deal with Fabric, a fulfillment automation partner, enabling Instacart to integrate leading software and robotics solutions from Fabric into Instacart’s proprietary technology to strengthen its e-commerce services for retail partners, fulfilling quicker from dedicated warehouses and within existing retailer locations.

Fabric’s partnership is one part of a growing next-gen fulfillment strategy that Instacart is embarking on, looking to pair robotics and automation with its dedicated Instacart shoppers to build out a faster, more improved fulfillment process.

The new process will marry the speed of robotics with the human touch and attention to detail of Instacart shoppers, enabling faster fulfillment of customers' full grocery shop from packaged goods, household essentials and produce to deli items, frozen food and alcohol, the company said. Once orders are carefully packed, shoppers will deliver orders to customers' doors or place them in staging areas for curbside pickup. Instacart plans to kick off early-stage concept pilots in partnership with Fabric and grocery retail partners over the coming year and beyond.

"Instacart is proud to serve as the chief ally to retailers during a time when e-commerce in North America is poised for accelerated adoption. Our next-gen fulfillment initiative combines our robust technology suite and dedicated community of shoppers with robotics solutions to give retailers even more innovative ways to compete and serve their customers online. Our next-gen fulfillment work will also help reduce some of the things that make in-store shopping cumbersome for Instacart shoppers, like crowded store aisles, out of stock items and long checkout lines," said Mark Schaaf, chief technology officer, Instacart. "Over the long-term, we believe partnering with retailers to bring next-gen fulfillment technologies together with the personal touch and care of Instacart's shopper community will create an even more seamless online grocery experience that's faster and more affordable for customers and delivers even more value and growth to retailers."

Fabric is a retail technology company that developed its own proprietary software and robotic mirco-fulfillment technology, and is running micro-fulfillment operations for grocery and general merchandise retailers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Tel Aviv. The company is planning to expand across five major U.S. metro areas in the coming months.

“Our software-led robotics and modular solution gives grocery retailers the flexibility to build the fulfillment solution that best fits the needs of their business,” said Elram Goren, CEO and co-founder of Fabric. “With Instacart as a partner, we see an enormous opportunity to integrate our product and services into Instacart's e-commerce solutions to provide a compelling service offering for grocers. We're excited to partner with Instacart as we continue to scale across North America and focus on unlocking more value for retailers and their customers."

Instacart's next-gen fulfillment initiative adds robotics solutions to the company's existing grocery e-commerce offerings. Those offerings include the Instacart marketplace, which features more than 600 beloved national, regional and local retailers.