Companies like Instacart have built huge ad businesses quickly, in large part due to their ability to drive immediate transactions right on their platforms. In fact Insider Intelligence pegs Walmart (42%) and Instacart (41%) as the two fastest growing ad vehicles in 2023.

In a recent episode of Next in Media, Ali Miller, Instacart’s vice president of Product Management, Ads, acknowledged that the lion’s share of her company’s ad growth comes from reaching consumers who are in buy-now mode. But her vision is to help brands drive demand and product discovery through a newer set of ad formats, particularly shoppable video.

“It wasn’t a forgone conclusion that would work,” she told me. But, “Grocery shopping is kind of fun. I love the idea that we can bring to life that shopping journey.”

Video “really helping brands better connect beyond that moment of a specific product discovery,” she added.

Of course, right now Instacart – like most Retail Media companies, is using advertising to move products off shelves -literal or virtual. The interesting thing about Instacart is that given that it doesn’t own or operate any of its own stores, it serves as both market research and data collector for many of its partners.

“Through our deep relationships with retail partners, we are able to understand what’s on the shelf,” she explained. “This is great from an advertiser value perspective and a for consumers,  [while also providing] a set of insights for our brand partners.”

This dynamic is very different than that of a typical media company, including Miller’s last job at YouTube. “I really enjoy this challenge and this particular connection to moving physical goods from the shelf into consumers hands through an online interface.”

Soon, those online interfaces may be more conversational, and backed by AI. While Instacart had nothing to announce on that front, the possibilities are vast.

“These moments of authentic discovery,” said Miller. “These are the kinds of things generative AI is incredible at.”

The video on this page is a short excerpt. Listen to the full interview on Next in Media here on Spotify or here on Apple Podcasts. Next in Media is produced in partnership with Beet.TV, presented by MiQ.