Technology

Demand for Instacart Surges as Consumers Settle at Home

Shoppers are flocking to the app in record numbers
Photograph courtesy of Instacart

In recent days, some Instacart users have been prohibited from placing grocery orders due to a lack of available delivery times. As coronavirus concerns drive more shoppers online, Instacart is stretching to meet the unprecedented demand for its grocery delivery services in 5,500 cities and more than half of all grocery stores across the U.S and Canada.

“I went through the whole process of filling my cart, but when I tried to place my order, I was told there were no available delivery times in my area,” said Heather Day, a Denver-based mother of two school-age children who is avoiding crowded stores. “My cousin who lives in California encountered the same issue. It’s frustrating.”

This past weekend, the grocery delivery service saw the highest customer demand in company history in terms of groceries sold on its platform, according to officials of San Francisco-based Instacart. Currently, it has the most shoppers it has ever had on the platform. 

Based on overall demand in some markets, customers may see delivery availability vary during busier request windows, Instacart said, adding that the majority of its deliveries over the past week have met same- or next-day requests.

In addition to swelling demand across North America, Instacart has also seen a significant rise in new customers, with daily Instacart app downloads surging by as much as four times on the Apple app store over the past week. On March 16, the Instacart app ranked No. 2 in the food and drink category on both the Apple and Google Play stores.

New and existing customers are not only flocking to the app with greater frequency, they are also putting more in their carts. Instacart reports its average customer basket size is up more than 20% month over month. They’re also purchasing more for others. In the past week, Instacart saw a more than 40% increase in the number of people using the app to place and send orders to an address other than their own.

As health officials recommend social distancing, customers are also taking advantage of Instacart’s recently launched Leave at My Door Delivery feature, with more than 25% of all orders last week leveraging this drop-off delivery option.  

Coronavirus-driven stockpiling has resulted in the limited availability of products, including hand sanitizer, disinfectants and toilet paper at grocery stores and mass merchants across the country. In response, Instacart has introduced new in-app messaging to notify shoppers before they begin shopping that they may experience more low-stock and out-of-stock items than usual. Its technology automatically notifies customers of these items as they’re shopping in-app and recommends a replacement item.

Instacart says it’s working to ensure safe operations with minimal disruption to its service while also taking appropriate precautionary measures to keep teams, shoppers and customers safe. Last week, it issued updated health and safety guidelines for shoppers, a new sick pay policy for all in-store shoppers nationwide, and additional extended pay for any Instacart shopper—both part-time employees and independent contractors—affected by COVID-19.

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