When Instacart launched in 2012, the idea of offering same-day grocery delivery on orders made up of items from a range of retail partners was exciting and somewhat revolutionary.
“We realized there was this $1-trillion industry hiding in plain sight that was essentially the only part of retail that hadn't moved online because people wanted immediacy and people wanted choice,” said Nilam Ganenthiran, chief business officer at Instacart.
E-grocery shoppers at the time were looking for speed and choice, he said, and didn’t want to feel beholden to a single retailer. It’s the foundation on which Instacart has grown a billion-dollar business (data and an army of personal shoppers didn’t hurt, either).
Today, Instacart boasts more than 300 retail partners, and there are more opportunities to be had. Ganenthiran touched on a couple of the opportunities the company has identified and executed on during a fireside chat at Groceryshop in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoon.
#1 Think customers, not channels
"There is no channel-specific customer anymore," said Ganenthiran. From click-and-collect to same-day grocery delivery and shopping in store, a single customer will use multiple services and tools. The challenge lies in ensuring the experience is seamless throughout and linking shopper data from online and offline purchases. "You want the online experience to remember what she bought the last time she was in-store," he said. "And we’re working with our partners to bring some of those capabilities online."
#2 Customers want choice. Give it to them
After a multi-month pilot, Instacart rolled out its click-and-collect service, Instacart Pickup, to nearly 2000 stores across 25 markets. Ganenthiran said Instacart Pickup is growing at a faster rate than its same-day grocery delivery option did at the time of launch. "That goes back to the fact the customer wants her groceries in multiple different ways and the industry has the opportunity to give her what she wants when she wants it," he said.
#3 Fill that basket!
Instacart has been working on scaling its alcohol business across as many states as possible, because when people buy ingredients for dinner they sometimes want wine to go with it, said Ganenthiran. But certain state laws have prevented Instacart from delivering alcohol, so the company is working with regulators to figure out a safe and compliant process to allow for same-day or even one-hour alcohol delivery.