- Instacart has launched a feature nationwide that allows customers to accept delivery to their doorstep without needing to be home.
- Shoppers can choose between in-person delivery or the new “Leave at My Door Delivery” option at checkout. If they choose the latter feature, they must specify a timeframe for delivery and can leave an optional note — such as a gate code — for their personal shopper. Once delivery is completed, the Instacart shopper will send a photo of the delivered order and a note for the customer, if they wish.
- Instacart said it's been testing the doorstep delivery feature for a few months and decided to roll it out nationwide after seeing a surge in demand over the past week.
Although Instacart didn’t say rising concerns over the coronavirus outbreak has boosted demand for its doorstep delivery service, it’s not difficult to make the connection.
The new feature offers more flexibility for the growing number of consumers opting for home delivery. It also lets customers and workers skip the human contact that’s part of the company’s traditional in-person delivery. As the number of outbreaks nationwide continues to expand, consumers are increasingly avoiding direct contact with strangers.
Online grocery deliveries have surged over the past week as consumers avoid crowded stores, malls and other public venues. Amazon’s grocery services have strained at the growing demand, while Instacart notes its sales growth rate between Monday and Wednesday this week was 10 times higher than normal, and 20 times higher in states like Washington and New York where there have been numerous confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
At the same time they're managing shopper concerns, retailers and delivery companies like Instacart are having to manage workers anxious about working in stores and coming into contact with so many customers. Instacart said it’s following the latest news and working with public health officials. In an advisory document, The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) said stores should update their health policies to ensure sick workers stay home. Retailers should also plan for employee absences and be able to redistribute labor across their stores and supply chains as needed.
“The response of company associates is more difficult to predict, but companies should begin to plan to operate with significant staff shortages,” FMI noted in the document.
Instacart's doorstep delivery could boost online grocery buying over the long-term since it offers an option for shoppers while they're away from home. Other companies have started addressing this same issue, most notably Walmart, which is currently piloting in-home grocery delivery in four cities. What's unclear is if Instacart is taking any additional measures to ensure orders stay fresh and minimize the risk of theft — two concerns Walmart's new service addresses, though it does introduce privacy concerns. Grocery Dive reached out to Instacart for further clarification, but the company reiterated its policies to allow customers to choose their delivery times.
On Friday, Instacart announced it’s also rolling out a mobile pay option for its personal shoppers. The service is available through the company’s shopper app and usable at any store that accepts credit card payments through Google Pay or Apple Pay. The company positioned the move as a way of enhancing flexibility for its workers and allowing them to start shopping without having to wait for a company-provided card.