08 September 2022
Unilever makes ice cream delivery available nationwide on Instacart
The Ice Cream Shop is expanding from select cities to the entire US.
The Ice Cream Shop is expanding from select cities to the entire US.
It’s rare that the end of summer brings news about ice cream availability getting wider, but that’s the case in a partnership announced on Thursday.
Unilever is expanding an on-demand ice cream delivery service nationwide through a new partnership with grocery tech company Instacart.
With a wide variety of brands in its freezer, Unilever says it is the world’s largest ice cream company. To offer delivery, it launched The Ice Cream Shop, an app-based delivery service available in major metro areas that has grown via partnership.
“We’re thrilled that our new partnership with Instacart expands The Ice Cream Shop’s virtual storefront to a nationwide scale,” said Daan Westdijk, heads of sales and category strategy for North American ice cream at Unilever. “Since 2018, The Ice Cream Shop has offered convenient delivery to ice cream fans in major cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and now thanks to our expanded partnership with Instacart, we can build upon our vision of delivering smiles to even more doorsteps across the US.”
The Ice Cream Shop will be accessible through Instacart’s grocery delivery platform. Shoppers can browse flavors from brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum ice cream, Popsicle and Talenti. The flavors can also be sorted by categories, such as best sellers, chocolate & vanilla or chunks & swirls.
Now that it is available through Instacart, The Ice Cream Shop’s service area will extend throughout the United States, as ice cream is delivered to customers from nearby locations. Delivery, which will be executed through Instacart's team and logistics, is available in as little as 30 minutes, according to the companies.
The Ice Cream Shop on Instacart's app. (Courtesy of Unilever)
It’s the latest delivery innovation for The Ice Cream Shop, which aims to sweeten the experience for online grocery shoppers by bringing ice cream to a customer’s door without letting it melt, and make the road to delivery of frozen goods less rocky in the process.
Earlier this summer, The Ice Cream Shop launched a pilot in Los Angeles to deliver ice cream through the mobile convenience store service Robomart that deployed mobile convenience trucks carrying ice cream to customer doorsteps. In a digital update to the typical ice cream truck experience, shoppers were able to swipe to open the truck and pick out their ice cream.
The ice cream was flown to customers in a separate pilot. In North Carolina and Texas, Unilever teamed with the drone delivery service Flytrex to ferry pints to customers’ backyards in under three minutes.
Delivery via Robomart and drone will not be available to customers that order through Instacart. However, a spokesperson said The Ice Cream Shop team remains excited about those delivery options and continues to look for new, innovative ways to shorten delivery time and increase availability of the ice cream it offers.
Perhaps the most pertinent recent development to this partnership was a new feature that launched on the Instacart platform in recent weeks. With the introduction of Carts, the company said it was rolling out a push to transform the platform into an experience that is fueled by inspirational shopping. Carts allow users to shop from the grocery orders of celebrities, or pick orders based on specific themes. It's one of a number of branded and shoppable experiences rolling out with partners throughout the marketplace.
This points at how Instacart is seeking to build around shoppable experiences. A feature like Carts is based around meeting customers' wants rather than needs, so it benefits from being able to deliver everyone’s favorites. It’s easy to see ice cream – and The Ice Cream Shop – mixing right into this approach. In fact, we spotted a Ben & Jerry's pint in Lizzo's Cart at launch:
(Photo courtesy of Instacart)
Ask Instacart answers prompts with personalized recommendations.
A pair of recent launches from Instacart highlight how the grocery ecommerce company is integrating two of the key emerging areas of technology into its offerings: Generative AI and marketplaces.
Let’s take a look:
Instacart is seeking to harness generative AI to create a more personalized shopping experience.
A new tool called Ask Instacart that is launching this week is designed to allow customers to type in questions about specific recipes or general recommendations for an occasion. Embedded in the search bar, Ask Instacart also provides personalized questions to be asked by customers. In addition to specific items, it provides information about food preparation, product attributes and dietary considerations.
For those eying how generative AI will play a role in the shopping experience, Ask Instacart shows how search can be transformed into a place for discovery. Instacart is aiming to provide answers to the more open-ended questions that people would naturally ask, not just simply provide info in response to a question that has one answer. It shared the following sample prompts:
The tool is also showing the way for generative AI to integrate with retail media. Ask Instacart is designed to integrate with a brand's sponsored products campaign, so that the answers to questions that match consumer needs can also provide a way for brands to stand out.
To create the tool, Instacart combined the language understanding of ChatGPT with its own AI models. It added in catalog data from 80,000 retail partner locations around the country, which together have more than one billion shoppable items.
Beyond mission: Ecommerce marketplaces have honed a shopping experience where it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. But if shoppers want to happen upon something they didn’t know they needed, social media or the store is still the best place to visit. Instacart is showing how generative AI can make discovery a marketplace function. It also signals that advertising will come to generative AI by way of retail media. Going forward, the growth of discovery could make retail media more valuable as a tool for advertising that raises brand awareness, not just lower-funnel conversions.
Instacart will power a new virtual convenience store for the grocery chain Aldi.
Aldi Express will feature 2,000 of the most-shopped Aldi items, ranging from prepared food and snacks to grocery staples.
Drawing on 2,100 Aldi locations around the country, items will be delivered as fast as 30 minutes, the companies said.
“Through ALDI Express, we’re making shopping more convenient so you can satisfy a craving or get a missing ingredient in minutes,” said Scott Patton, VP of National Buying at ALDI, in a statement. “Together with Instacart, we’ll continue to find ways to innovate and make the online grocery experience even more effortless and accessible.”
Aldi began offering delivery via Instacart in 2017, and has since expanded services to include pickup as well as alcohol delivery.
Aldi’s marketplace moment? While Aldi previously offered delivery, making the assortment available through a virtual store offers the opportunity to create a marketplace for its goods. With the virtual store, it will more closely resemble DoorDash and Uber Eats, which have been expanding their grocery assortment. With a marketplace, additional revenue opportunities could open up for the grocer, such as advertising through retail media.