The Ultimate Guide To Being an Instacart Shopper

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Here is the scoop about Instacart. Like so many other businesses, it flowered in the pandemic. After losing $25 million a month in 2019, the firm had its first profitable month in April 2020 with a profit of $10 million, according to a report by the Business of Apps website. Demand was so great that Instacart went from about 100,000 full-service drivers in 2019 to 350,000 drivers a year later.

By the beginning of 2021, Power Reviews announced that 73% of consumers reported that they had made an online grocery purchase, up from 17% prior to the pandemic. A year later, Q1 2022, that number was 71%. Hardly a decline.

The truth is consumers like Instacart. Gig drivers can make some decent part-time money at it or even work full time. We’ll show you how to make more money with Instacart. 

What questions will we answer in this blog post?

Read on as we tell you what’s happening with Instacart. In this post we will address:

What is Instacart?

Instacart is an online grocery delivery business founded in 2012. Today it has expanded across much of the US and Canada. You can find out if it serves your region by checking out Instacart’s website. Instacart works with all the major supermarkets and drugstores, and even Petco. As a customer, when you go on the app and indicate your ZIP code, the app will list participating markets in your region. 

Instacart is like rideshare in that both users and drivers order and take orders through the app. After choosing their store, users go through the app and make their purchase selections. The app is surprisingly thorough, listing everything available in the store, complete with flavors, sizes, and even photos. Payment is made through the app with a credit card or debit card. 

As a driver, you receive the order, or batch as it is known in Instacart-world. If you accept, you drive to the specified store, fill a basket, show your Instacart card (remember, payment has already been made), and then drive to the customer’s house and make the delivery. 

The three ways you can work for Instacart

There are three ways in which you can work for Instacart. 

In-store shopper

In-store shoppers for Instacart are employees of the company, as opposed to gig workers. They are generally part-time. Filling orders in the store and preparing them for pickup by the drivers, in-store shoppers make about $14 an hour. You have to negotiate your way around the grocery store, but you don’t have to deal with the end customer and customer complaints. 

Driver-only

For those drivers who don’t want to do the actual shopping, there are driver-only jobs. These are gig positions where you pick up the bagged groceries from the in-store shopper and deliver them to the customer’s home. 

Full-service shopper

This is the gig driver that does the shopping and the delivery. It is the ticket to the most money as a gig driver for Instacart, but it is also the most responsibility. If you get the order wrong, then it’s on you. 

In-store shoppers and driver-only shoppers are only in select regions served by Instacart. But you find full-service shoppers wherever Instacart is available. 

How much do Instacart shoppers make? 

How much does Instacart pay per hour for full-service shoppers? In April of this year, Gridwise reported the monthly earnings of Instacart full-service shoppers. In January 2022, full-service shoppers were making $16.28 an hour in gross earnings. That fell to $15.34 an hour in February. In March, it bounced back to $15.72.   

Interestingly enough, the per-trip earnings came close to mirroring the hourly earnings. Full-service drivers made $16.67 per trip in January. In February, that dropped to $15.73 per trip. By March, those numbers rebounded a few pennies to $15.79 per trip. Average Instacart shopper earnings per trip were $16.06 for the first quarter.

How much do Instacart full-service shoppers make in a month? January monthly earnings came in at $197.88. In February, they dropped to $173.02. In March, they came back up to $186.64. 

Keep in mind that these monthly earnings are an average of all drivers across Instacart-world, both full-time and part-time, and in all regions. Full-time drivers will average more, especially if they hustle and are smart shoppers. 

If you want to make Instacart a full-time gig, check out the piece that Gridewise published in June of this year, How to Make $1000 a Week with Instacart [2022].

How much do Instacart drivers make in tips?

Tips for Instacart shoppers hovered around $6.50 per batch in Q1 2022, but if you want to make $1,000 a week as an Instacart shopper, one of the areas where you can make a difference is in tips. One full-service shopper boasted that her tip earnings average 50% of the order size. We reveal some secrets to earning better tips as an Instacart shopper later in this blog post. 

How to make more money with Instacart

If you compare per-hour earnings and per-trip earnings, it works out to about a batch an hour. If you want to increase your earnings, you need to increase the number of trips you can make in a shift. Most of the savings in time will be realized in the store and in the parking lot. Let’s take a look at some professional tips for cutting seconds and minutes off your in-store time.

  1. Before going into the store, scroll through the list. Note items that are close together on the shelves or in the same aisle.
  2. If there is a deli order, go there first. If it’s multiple items, write them down in a Post-It and give it to the deli worker. Ask them to put the completed order where you can get it when you come back, then do the rest of your shopping. 
  3. Ladies, when shopping, leave your purse in the car and use a fanny pack instead. This allows you to leave your shopping cart to run down an aisle for single items without fear of getting your purse stolen. It also frees you to carry more. 
  4. Crowded aisles are a time suck. If you can, leave the cart at the end and walk down the aisle without it. It’s easier to maneuver. 
  5. When the bagger asks you if you need help out to the parking lot, say yes. You can save thirty seconds by not having to return the shopping cart. 
  6. Remember the names of the staff at the stores and be friendly with them. These people can make your life easier. 
  7. Make sure every item has a barcode. Sometimes they fall off. Nothing wastes time like having to send a bagger off to find a price. 
  8. If it appears as if the item is out of stock, don’t waste time looking for it. Call the customer and see if there is a suitable replacement. 
  9. Likewise, when you can’t find a product and you need to ask, see if you can get someone to help you find it. This saves time, and it’s why you need to stay friendly with the staff. 
  10. Watch the promotions Instacart offers drivers. One region recently offered drivers a $100 bonus for 20 delivered batches. 

Check out YouTube, Reddit, and Quora on a regular basis for Instacart shopper tips. There is a lot of good stuff on these sites. 

Also good to know, Instacart added in-store navigation to the app. This is handy as you wander through the aisles trying to figure out whether sun-dried tomatoes are in produce or in condiments next to the pickles and olives. 

How to increase tips as an Instacart shopper

The things you can do as an Instacart shopper to increase your tips are amazingly simple. Some suggestions to prompt a larger tip include

  1. Texting the customer when you get to the store. Let them know you will text or call them if an item is out of stock and they need to get a substitute. 
  2. Learning the names of your regular customers, just like with store employees. People love to hear their names. Take note of family events and the names of kids.
  3. Taking the time to pick good produce. Watch the expiration dates on dairy.
  4. Remembering to smile when you arrive at the customer’s home!
  5. Carrying change for a twenty, as strongly recommended by a driver on Quora. People might want to tip you, but they only have the larger bill. If you have the change, you can help them break that twenty and get yourself another tip or two. They might say that they’ll tip you in the app, but we know how that goes. 

Again, you might also want to check out Reddit and Quora from time to time to see how other Instacart shoppers earn tips. And don’t forget the YouTube videos. 

How to get and keep that 5-star Instacart rating

The algorithms controlling many of the app-based gig jobs remain a mystery, tighty guarded by the respective companies. Instacart has admitted, however, that their algorithm gives preference to drivers with a 4.7 rating or higher when it comes to passing out batches. It behooves you to keep that rating up. 

How do you do that? Doing all the above things will take you a long way. Focus on getting orders delivered on time, make sure orders are correct, and always be cheerful. Again, you can also check out YouTube, Reddit, and Quora for ideas from other drivers. Some drivers are bold enough to ask customers for a 5-star rating. There are no online reports that this has backfired. 

Other drivers include thank-you notes, reminding the customer to leave a 5-star rating. One woman goes as far as stapling in a packet of wildflower seeds (she gets four packs for a buck at the Dollar Store). 

And if you do have a bad experience, keep in mind that people tend to remember the last thing you did for them. You might have a customer irritated because some of the items were out of stock, but if the last thing they remember about you is how you offered to carry the bags into the kitchen for them, you leave a good impression.  

What are the best areas for Instacart?

Moloco, a tech firm that helps companies manage and interpret their data, lists the major Instacart demographics on their website. These include

  • 80% of Instacart customers are women
  • 50% of customers are between the ages of 25–44, while 30% are age 55–75
  • 60% live one mile or less from a grocery store
  • 40% are parents, while 15% are retired

The takeaway here is that Instacart is heavily used by women (probably mostly mothers and probably working mothers), in urban and suburban areas. Supermarkets surrounded by lots of homes are a target-rich environment. The higher the income of the area, the better the tips. If you are delivering to downtown high-rise apartments, you might consider getting a large collapsible wagon so that you can get everything up the elevator in a single trip. 

To get a better idea of areas near you that are more profitable, download Gridwise and use Where to Drive to determine the best areas for doing Instacart in your location.

How do I become an Instacart shopper?

Like most rideshare and food delivery gig jobs, you start on the Instacart website or download the app. It’s a quick process, and approval takes just a few days. In terms of particular qualifications, you’ll need to

  • be at least 18 years old
  • be in possession of a valid driver’s license
  • pass a background test
  • be eligible to work in the United States
  • have consistent access to a vehicle
  • have consistent access to, and be able to effectively use, a recent smartphone (iPhone 6s/ Android 5.0 or newer)
  • have the ability to lift 50 lb with or without accommodation

According to some drivers, there is a two-hour on-boarding process. Then you are good to go as an Instacart shopper. 

Is Instacart doing food delivery?

Yes, they started earlier this year. You can read about it in this Gridwise blog post, Instacart’s Venture into Food Delivery: How It Will Impact Delivery Drivers. The most notable thing to know is that Instacart is only delivering prepared foods from grocery stores, although that could change. 

What else do you need as an Instacart shopper?

Gridwise is essential for all gig drivers. The app is free, and there are lots of features, including the Where to Drive and When to Drive sections of the app, that will provide you with information about when and where peak times are in your area.

Interested in knowing when to start your shifts and where to shop?

Download Gridwise now

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