- Instacart has introduced new features for its contract workers, referred to as shoppers, aimed at providing added flexibility and support as they pick and deliver grocery orders. The features are now available for all Instacart shoppers and were detailed on the company’s shopper blog Tuesday.
- Through the shopper app, Instacart contractors can now chat directly with support staff for any questions or issues they may have. They can also connect for support by phone through the app, or schedule a support call.
- This is the second update for Instacart shoppers this month. A couple weeks ago, the e-grocer introduced an "on-demand" feature for its workers, allowing them to review and accept customer orders whenever they want. The on-demand program is being piloted in several markets including Boston, Rochester and Austin.
Instacart says it has taken shopper feedback seriously in recent months following backlashes over modified payment structure, botched tips and increasing awareness of labor issues in the grocery industry.
The company has continued to roll out new features and tools for its contract shoppers with the goal of making their work more transparent and flexible. In addition to its April updates, Instacart launched an instant payment platform for contracted shoppers in March, which offers immediate cash-out rather than weekly direct deposits.
The app-based gig economy, including Instacart, is currently under fire from a labor advocacy nonprofit that claims pay and benefits for workers is insufficient. According to a report by labor advocacy group Working Washington cited in Fast Company, Instacart's average wages for its shoppers amount to $7.66 an hour. Instacart disputes the claim, and has noted in the past that its workers average more than $15 an hour.
Instacart can ill afford poor relations with its workers. The labor market remains very competitive, with the national unemployment rate at 3.8% last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Instacart is also fighting to prove it's still a good value to the many chains that utilize its e-commerce services as competitors like Shipt and Jyve move in. A recent Consumer Reports survey ranked Instacart fifth out of six top e-grocery services.
Instacart’s latest changes are part of the company’s effort to make the experience for its contracted shoppers as user-friendly as it wants its customer-facing platform to be. In addition to reducing fees for customers last year, Instacart recently introduced curbside pickup and continues to expand to serve more markets — now available in more than 20,000 stores in 5,500 cities throughout North America.
Last October Instacart landed $600 million in new funding, and at the time said it would use some of the money to invest in engineering and product development talent. It appears that part of the investment has also been put to improving relationships with contractors and the tools they have available to them.