One-on-One With Instacart’s Carolyn Everson

President discusses grocery’s changing competitive landscape

Carolyn Everson is the newly appointed president of San Francisco-based online grocery platform Instacart.

Jennifer Strailey: When we spoke in September, you had three weeks under your belt as president of Instacart. At the time, you talked about focusing on Instacart’s retailer partners and the excitement you felt at the prospect of building an entire business around growing someone else’s business. As you’ve gotten to know your grocery retail partners, what do they need most for continued growth? 

Carolyn Everson: It’s been an incredibly busy, but also a very exciting time at Instacart. I’ve spent my first couple months spending as much time as possible with our retail partners getting to know them and the unique needs of their businesses. What we’ve heard from retailers of all sizes is that the competitive landscape has changed, and now—more than ever—they need a technology partner to help them adapt and scale as new opportunities and consumer needs arise. 

As a retail enablement platform, our fundamental goal is to help grocers grow, thrive and meet customers at each unique and transactable moment. Retailers want to do more with us. They see the adoption of online grocery only accelerating over the next decade, so they’re asking us to partner more deeply with them to see what else we can do to support their business as they prepare for the next wave of innovation.

There are a number of ways that we’re doing this now through new technology and solutions that help partners offer customers more convenience, speed, selection and value online.

We’ve launched new virtual convenience experiences with Kroger, Ahold Delhaize U.S. and Publix—unlocking 30-minute delivery for their customers. We’ve partnered with new value retailers like Dollar Tree and Grocery Outlet, while also introducing new features across the Instacart app that make online grocery more affordable for more families. We’ve expanded our EBT SNAP payment integrations with more than 30 retailers across 39 states. We’ve grown our alcohol delivery footprint to cover nearly 75% of households in America, continued to expand our pickup reach with more partners, and so much more. 

We’re so energized by the opportunity ahead, and the role we can play empowering grocers. We’ll continue to build and invest in new, innovative solutions that support the entire customer journey, and use technology to create a better grocery experience for our partners and their customers.

Instacart has acquired several businesses in the last month, namely FoodStorm, the catering software firm and Caper AI, a smart cart and checkout technology platform. What is the significance of these acquisitions, and do they signal a new phase in the evolution of Instacart? Can we expect similar acquisitions in the near future? 

I always say you need to look at a company’s P&L and balance sheet to know if their stated strategy is actually the one they are executing. The acquisitions of FoodStorm and Caper AI are definitive proof points of our commitment to becoming the best retail enablement partner. Over the years, we’ve made incredible strides bringing the grocery industry online, but looking ahead we see a tremendous opportunity to break down the silos between in-store and online shopping for our partners. We’re taking a strategic, thoughtful approach to M&A, investing in companies that we believe will truly help retailers elevate their businesses over the next five to 10 years.

With Foodstorm, ordering prepared meals and catering has traditionally been an offline experience for grocers, creating a labor-intensive and inefficient process that blocked them from capitalizing on a meaningful revenue opportunity. Our partners told us they were looking for a solution to address this specific use case and bring their entire store online. We’re now uniquely positioned to offer retailers a best-in-class solution, and we’ll be integrating Foodstorm’s end-to-end order-ahead and catering platform into our comprehensive suite of enterprise e-commerce solutions in the coming months.

With the addition of Caper AI, we’re really thinking about how to seamlessly connect the in-store and online experience for retailers and their customers. We believe that the future of grocery isn’t a choice between online and offline. It’s about helping customers get the food that they love from retailers they trust, no matter where they are or how they choose to shop. That’s where Caper comes in—their technology represents a leap forward for the grocery industry and allows us to expand our retailer enablement platform further. It also marks the first time that we’ve invested in a set of products and technologies that improve the in-store shopping experience.

You came to Instacart from Facebook. What has it been like to be reunited with another former Facebook alum Fidji Simo, CEO of Instacart?

I’m delighted to be reunited with Fidji. Her capacity to absorb information and be really clear on our strategy is truly exceptional. She was attracted to this category as much as I was. Eight percent of grocery is online today and we expect that to grow to about 30% in the next five to 10 years. We think we’re incredibly well positioned to increase adoption and deliver consumers exceptional experiences that they want and expect from their retailers.

Lightning Round

What’s the most exotic food you’ve ever eaten?   

Gold Amazonian ants at D.O.M. in Brazil.

Last concert you saw?  

Billy Joel

One thing you’ve learned since the start of the pandemic?  

So many life lessons from the pandemic—it’s been amazing to see how the world has changed and how our own lives can change on a dime. I think the biggest lesson for me was the importance of investing in your closest relationships. I always say, ‘Life is Short; Create Memories,’ and that’s something I’ve really tried to embody throughout the pandemic.




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