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How Instacart Harnesses the Power of Generative AI

Company aims to use AI and ML innovations to drive its operations
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
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Instacart is using generative AI to help improve every aspect of its operations.

It’s no secret that Instacart was an early adopter of ChatGPT when it came barreling onto the technology scene earlier this year, counting itself among the first companies to build a plugin for the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot developed by OpenAI. The grocery tech company asserts that AI and machine learning (ML) innovation lies at the core of everything it does, and is giving an update on how generative AI is revolutionizing its own data science.

Instacart is currently using generative AI internally to make it easier for its employees to find information, run analyses and parse insights, while also using the technology to build new product experiences that better serve its customers, advertisers, retailer partners and shoppers.

“We’ve long used machine learning to power our service, and our vision is to bring this AI-first posture to everything we do, harnessing these technologies to further improve our products and operations,” wrote Anahita Tafvizi, VP and head of data science, strategy and business operations, in a company blog post. “The specific tools may change, but our commitment to leveraging AI to better serve customers and shoppers remains constant.”

On the data science team, Tafvizi explained that generative AI helps reduce manual work while accelerating productivity, making it easier to migrate tools and write complex code. Additionally, generative AI has led to the development of internal chatbots that are trained on both internal and publicly available documentation and can answer frequently asked questions about visualization, reporting and experimentation tools.

Instacart is also learning how to serve retail partners more effectively through the use of OpenAI’s language models, which help the company prioritize requests and avoid duplication of efforts. Further, the data science team partners with product and ML engineering teams to figure out the most impactful ways to use AI to improve the end-to-end consumer experience and measure the outcomes. 

“As early adopters of AI technology across all areas, we will extract valuable insights from data that will continuously improve the Instacart experience for our retail and brand partners, consumers, and shoppers, as well as make improvements to our own strategies,” Tafvizi wrote. “Our unique approach lies in a balance of  quickly adopting AI to inform our approach to current problems while iteratively adjusting this adoption as technology advances.”

Continued Tafvizi: “By adopting an active learning approach, we aim to rapidly expand our capabilities and understanding of how best to apply AI and to make Instacart better for everyone.”

San Francisco-based Instacart partners with more than 1,200 national, regional and local retail banners to facilitate online shopping, delivery and pickup services from more than 80,000 stores across North America on the Instacart Marketplace.

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