Over the holidays, things got hectic. We hosted multiple parties in a few days’ time, and me being me, I of course felt the need to feed our partygoers so that A) they would return for future parties; B) I could feed people (because I love feeding people); and C) there was something to soak up all the vats of mulled wine and cherry bounce my husband was doling out like candy. (Delicious stuff. Potent, but delicious.)

Making the food for all of these gatherings was exciting and satisfying, but it was also challenging. Because compounding the frenzied nature of throwing multiple parties in a short time span was the fact that we’re a one-car family. And my schedule did not sync well enough with my husband’s schedule to allow me to take the car and hit the grocery store and stock up on the grocery items I needed to throw a fabulous party.

Enter Instacart.

If you’ve read my posts at all on this site, you know how much I love—LOVE—grocery shopping. It is one of my favorite pastimes. So the draw of services like Instacart or Peapod are lost on me. Even the idea of submitting an order online and simply pulling up to the store to pick up groceries without ever turning off my engine is foreign to me. Sure, I’ve used these services before, and they’re nice, but…they’re not me. I’m an aisle-by-aisle kind of gal, and while I always shop with a list, I’m not opposed to tossing an interesting new product in my cart if I’m intrigued. And I’m not alone—only 8 out of 10 people buy groceries online in the U.S., according to Gallup’s annual Consumption Survey. What’s more, the survey backs up my rambling ways in the grocery store: “The slow adoption of online food ordering could indicate that people enjoy picking their own groceries in person or that they don’t see sufficient savings of time or money to justify the switch. The delivery charges that go along with food delivery may be a factor in that,” the authors note. (We’ll get back to that last part about delivery charges in a minute…) 

Back to the holiday parties. So there I was, stuck at home without a car, and in desperate need of some groceries so I could get the party prep rolling. I decided to give Instacart a whirl, logged on, plugged in my order, and in less than two hours a very friendly delivery person showed up at my door, grocery items in hand.

And it wasn’t terrible.

Yes, I missed the excitement of the grocery store. Yes, I missed the free samples I usually nibble on while shopping. And yes, I paid more than I would have at the grocery store. (See delivery charges, as mentioned above, which can vary widely, depending on which grocery delivery serveice you use.)  

But in a pinch, it sufficed. And I learned/confirmed a few things in the process:

  1.     Browsing web pages for products is not nearly as fun as browsing store aisles.
  3.     The grocery store was out of a couple of the items I ordered, and they sent me a couple of alerts to let me know. Except that being a modern consumer, who uses technology on the daily, I, like many, suffer from alert fatigue, and never bothered checking them. Thus, it was a surprise to me when I got my groceries only to find a couple of items missing, which made me dig through my order to make sure I hadn’t forgotten something, which was both my own fault and annoying.

Take these three points, and improve on them, Instacart. (And you too, other grocery delivery options.) Where can I browse new products that I might otherwise miss? Make it easier to navigate your site. And for the love of all that is holy, find a better way to let me know a particular store is out of a product BEFORE my groceries are delivered.

While this all happened weeks ago, it’s been on my mind recently because of a recent article about Instacart being delisted from Whole Foods.  While Instacart seemingly is still going strong with other retailers, I’d watch out if I were them. There’s a lot of room for improvement, IMHO, especially if they want to have even a sliver of a chance of competing with people who love to order online or pickup in store, or people like me, who are hardcore grocery goers.  (Though I realize they’re probably not trying to convert people like me.) They’ve got to be perfect, and I mean perfect. They’ve got to make it so that it’s easier than snapping my fingers, and so that I don’t miss going to the grocery store, the sights, the sounds—and the free samples.

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