Order confirmation and sample dinner graphic courtesy of Instacart's Instagram. http://instagram.com/instacart
Order confirmation and sample dinner graphic courtesy of Instacart's Instagram. http://instagram.com/instacart

Grocery shopping is an experience that almost everyone is well acquainted with. However, the experience of grocery shopping hasn’t really changed much in the past 20 years. We all know some have tried. I’m looking at you, Webvan. Still, we have witnessed huge advancements in logistics with Amazon and on-demand rideshare services including Uber and Lyft. It seems natural that there will be an on-demand delivery service for grocery shopping. Enter Instacart.

Instacart delivery from H-E-B to a customer's home in Austin. Photo courtesy of jaredten on Instagram.http://instagram.com/p/oQ1k76rjVA/
Instacart delivery from H-E-B to a customer’s home in Austin. Photo courtesy of jaredten via Instagram.

I started using Instacart while working at a startup in San Francisco. My office manager came in with a light blue bag filled with groceries. “Instacart” was printed on the side of the reusable tote. I was immediately intrigued.

Instacart is a lot like the Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service, I learned from my coworker, except all the groceries from Instacart are sourced from local supermarkets in a given metro area. The other main difference is time: groceries are delivered usually only one to two hours – depending on shopper’s choice. Amazon Fresh offers same-day delivery, but an order placed at 10 a.m. will usually arrive around dinner time.

With Instacart, you can also schedule a delivery window for a specified time in the immediate future. The groceries are delivered, usually via car, to an address you specify in a reusable bag tote which you can keep and use as you wish.

Taking the bus home that afternoon, I couldn’t stop thinking about giving it a try. The next day I signed up for Instacart and tried out my first delivery – which they offer for free. It was a simple order for chips and salsa which I scheduled for that evening at home. The application was fairly easy to install and register for. The delivery was received within the schedule window. I greeted my grocery shopper at my apartment door and tipped via the application upon checkout. The chips and salsa were delicious, by the way.

I found the price points for deliveries to be fairly reasonable: $3.99 for two-hour delivery, $5.99 for one hour, depending on the total cost of your order. There is even an option to subscribe to a yearly membership for those who will expect deliveries regularly, as well as perks for their two-hour delivery window. It turned out that my coworker subscribed to the delivery membership since she ordered from Instacart to stock the office fridge regularly.

One weekend I was planning on entertaining guests for a get-together. I scheduled a huge, eclectic list of items for purchase for a specific delivery window because I had very little time to make it to the store myself. Given the long, unconventional work hours of a startup, Instacart fit perfectly in my schedule.

Instacart has also built a consistent experience for customers. No surprise fees or delays. That, for me, is worth the delivery price and personal shopper tip. For reference, my second shopping list consisted of: Milk, eggs, carrots, green onions, celery, cilantro, olive oil, cayenne pepper, a bottle of Merlot, and brie cheese. It filled up four bags.

A delivery awaits an Instacart customer. Photo courtesy Instacart's Instagram. http://instagram.com/instacart
A delivery awaits an Instacart customer. Photo courtesy Instacart’s Instagram.

Instacart met my needs as a professional in the startup world for home and office deliveries. I can easily see it benefiting a busy parent, too. It saves time and the shoppers only buy things on the list – that means no impulse buys while you’re standing in the checkout line.

It’s easy to say that Instacart is just a convenient delivery service for groceries – it certainly is.

But it also has quite the impact on personal opportunity costs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ 2013 American Time Use Survey, “(The) average time spent purchasing consumer goods” ranged from a little as 18 minutes to as much as 70 minutes on a given day. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the “average number of trips per week consumers make to the supermarket” is 1.6 trips. If you combine these two stats we have average consumer purchasing times ranging from 28 minutes a week to as many as 112 minutes per week.

Consider the time spent commuting, in traffic, parking, finding what you are looking for at the store (or not), and standing in the checkout line. That is time spent on sub-tasks coupled with your grocery shopping experience. Consider what else you could be doing with that time: spending time with family and friends, working on a hobby, exercising, or even relaxing on the couch. There are so many tasks and activities to do in one day. Grocery shopping can be one of them, but not all the time. I’d rather spend my time pursuing other activities versus a grocery shopping experience that has a known result.

Image courtesy Instacart's Instagram. http://instagram.com/instacart
Image courtesy Instacart’s Instagram.

While I lived in San Francisco, I chose Instacart over a franchise supermarket that was within 150 feet of my apartment door – not because of my laziness – but because it affordably freed up time for other activities. Living in San Antonio, there is not one grocery shopping chain within one mile of my apartment complex.

There is an existing grocery delivery service in San Antonio called G-Runners, which you can read about from the owner in a Rivard Report story here. The service also organizes care packages for men and women serving in the U.S. Military.

There’s also Greenling, which delivers local and organic groceries from area farms.

It could be said that the premium price for an on-demand delivery service is too high. That argument is fair. However, Instacart offers national brand items at below-supermarket rates (Instacart Plus), strengthening its fit for the budget-conscious shopper. Instacart offers a streamlined experience for shopping for what you want or need, thus saving you time and money. Both features are aimed at easing consumer bottom lines as well as alleviating those with tight schedules.

Recently, I received a survey from Instacart about their interest in launching in San Antonio. I quickly filled out the survey and reached out to Instacart telling them how much I appreciate their consideration to launch in San Antonio and how much I’ve used Instacart in the past. If it isn’t obvious, I am a huge promoter of the service. Founded in 2012, Instacart has launched in many metro areas across the United States, including Austin and Houston. I believe San Antonio is ready for a service like Instacart. We’re ready for an alternative grocery shopping experience. I look forward to the new possibilities for a city on the rise.

*Featured/top image: Order confirmation and sample dinner graphic courtesy of Instacart’s Instagram

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Andrew Velis

Andrew Velis is a senior software engineer for Promoter.io Inc. He earned his degree in computer science at the University of San Francisco.