Apps like Instacart: How to Jump-Start Your Local Delivery App | Eastern Peak — Technology Consulting & Development Company

Local delivery apps are a big hit now since people prefer to make purchases without having to leave their homes. During the lockdown, this tendency has become more vivid than ever: shopping online is a way to protect yourself and your family.

Apps like Instacart connect grocery stores and restaurants with their customers, and the key to this service is fast delivery. Lots of entrepreneurs want to have a piece of this tasty pie — the revenue of the online food delivery market is growing and is expected to reach $136,3 million by next year.

There is no better time to take a closer look at grocery delivery apps. Everything you need is in here: the types of online food delivery apps, their specific features, possible challenges, and how to build one.

Food delivery apps: Market overview

There are three main categories of local delivery food apps on the market:

  • Restaurant food and grocery deliveries

Postmates basically organizes food deliveries from everywhere. There are over 650 000 shoppers working across the US to deliver food from a local restaurant or store on any day, and at any time.

There are also interesting collaborations now on the market. For example, (a grocery delivery app) and DoorRash (a restaurant food delivery app) have teamed up to improve delivery services and help small grocery shops stand out.

  • Restaurant food deliveries

DoorDash, which we have mentioned above, is one of the most popular restaurant food delivery apps. You can get any food from your favorite restaurants along with alcoholic beverages from any cafe or shop.

Grubhub is another great option for restaurant food delivery. Along with standard features of choosing a place and then the dish, you can also use available discounts.

Read also: All You Need to Know About Building a Food Delivery App: Grubhub Case Study

Uber Eats is an option for everyone with an Uber account. You simply choose any place that sells food in your city, make an order, and the food thereafter be promptly delivered to your location.

  • Grocery deliveries

Walmart Grocery is focusing on coving all angels by providing options slightly different from grocery delivery apps. Buyers can pick up their orders — this is a half-offline and half-online option. There is also a delivery option for those who do not want to leave their home.

For Shipt, the delivery process is pretty much the same, but this app offers deliveries from several grocery chains. The order gets to the buyer in a flash — it takes an hour or so. It is possible thanks to the groups of local shoppers who are always near the stores that they shop at to provide guaranteed fast delivery.

Amazon Prime Now delivers not only groceries but also other items like cleaning supplies or books — a huge variety of Amazon products. For more grocery items, you can opt for delivery from local markets.

Instacart, like Shipt, uses the help of local shoppers. The company works in major US cities and offers deliveries from several grocery chains. The best part is special deals and coupons that are available solely in the Instacart app.

Grocery delivery at a glance: How Instacart works

Instacart was founded in 2012, and is now considered to be a market leader for on-demand food delivery in the US. It is not surprising that lots of local delivery apps look up to this company. Let’s see the structure of Instacart’s business model.

Business model segments

There are three parties concerned within this grocery delivery service: individual buyers, shoppers, and grocery stores. To build apps similar to Instacart, it is important to know the end goal of each party.

Individual buyers are those who make their orders via the app. Basically, they are the key company’s clients. The application has to be intuitive, and they should feel comfortable using it.

The main goal of this segment is to shop for groceries online. You win if you provide enough convenience and something more. Why would clients stay with your app and not use another one? They should know the benefits. In this case, it can be store coupons.

Shoppers are those who provide deliveries. This segment uses another app where a person can review available orders and follow up with how much they charge. In the case of Instacart, this special app is not publicly available on the web — shoppers need to leave their phone numbers on the website, and only then can they get the app.

Shoppers can choose how to work with the platform:

  • Full-time shoppers work independently, and deliveries are their main activity throughout the day. They make both purchases and deliveries for the customer.
  • In-store shoppers only buy products according to the customers’ lists and do not make any deliveries. These are part-time workers who have a flexible schedule. It can be a side job for students or people with full-time jobs.

Grocery stores include retailer chains as well as small local stores. Instacart has a broad network of partnerships in many US cities. For stores, this is a chance to spread the word about their business and increase their income.

The workflow

  1. After opening a mobile app or a website, the user should choose a store they are going to make an order from. The user then chooses products for the order and adds the delivery information.

Read also: Busting Myths of Employing Technologies in the Food Industry

To help shoppers, the consumer can add some clarifying details: a parking location, entrance gates, or special marks on the building. When it is done, the client pays for the products and delivery services within the Instacart app.

2. After that, the grocery list and delivery instructions appear in the system. This information is subsequently received by the local shopper who will carry out the delivery.

3. Now it is the time for the offline part. The shopper buys items according to the user’s grocery list and pays with the app’s card. If some products are not available, a corresponding sum of money goes back to the user’s card.

4. The shopper brings the products to the consumer — it is as simple as that. Tips are acceptable and are totally up to the user upon receiving the order.

Getting to business: How to build an app like Instacart

Instacart is a popular app among consumers, but it does not mean that its business model is the only perfect solution. If you are interested in becoming a player in this market, we recommend choosing a business model for your on-demand delivery app before taking a deep dive into various app features.

1. Business model

There are four options for your consideration.

Marketplaces provide their own menu. People make orders according to this menu, and delivery employees process the order and deliver it to the buyers. In this case, you may not have a physical store or shop.

Aggregators gather menus from several shops under one roof (services like Instacart). This model also does not require having a physical store. Unlike marketplaces, the list of available items will not depend on you but on the stores you work with.

Read also: Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Small Businesses and What You Can Do About It

Single store apps are mainly built for regular clients and help increase their loyalty. This is a great solution for small local stores because it distinguishes them from other local companies.

Grocery chain apps are now standard practice for big market players, and it has gradually become a natural part of their business growth. Grocery chains have much more regular customers, and the app provides products for people all over the city or even the country.

2. Must-have app features

No matter what business model you choose, here are some vital features to discuss with the software development team.

  • The shopping list is the foundation of the final order, and creating lists within the app is an essential feature.
  • The search box is necessary for those buyers who are looking for specific products. With an on-demand grocery delivery app, there is no need to roam around the shelves looking for something specific. You should create a clear category system and provide a quick and convenient search option.
  • The cart is where all the products should appear after they have been picked by the customer.
  • Suggestions may include the most frequently purchased items, allowing people to save time by quickly adding such items to their cart without having to search for them every time they create a shopping list.
  • Special offers of any kind (sales, coupons, rewards) are the most effective instrument for broadening your return customer base, especially if buyers receive discounts on their favorite products.
  • Payment options: Paypal, Quickpay, PayU, etc.
  • Scheduled delivery allows users to define a specific time when products should be delivered.
  • Order tracking is simple but crucial: clients should be able to check the status of their order and where it is at any given moment.
  • Reviews help assure users in that they provide useful information about the shoppers, stores, and products.

3. Software development process

When developers decide on how to make a grocery delivery app, they need to review your requirements once again and then build technical specifications accordingly. There are several aspects they need to consider.

Read also: Benefits of Outsourcing Mobile Application Development over In-House Development

The programming language. It depends heavily on the platform for your app — whether it will be launched for mobile or desktop, or both.

Adding the payment feature. The safest choice here is to use well-known technologies, such as Stripe or PayPal. Developers will probably suggest adding more than one payment method.

GPS navigation. In the development of an on-demand service app, navigational support is a crucial feature. There are separate tech solutions for mobile and desktop. Developers use different technologies to figure out the store’s location, track shoppers, and give them directions.

Top 5 challenges of online food delivery

All on-demand grocery delivery apps have similar problems, so it is better to mention them before you actually have to deal with these issues.

Where to get the app data

Companies like Instacart work with many stores around that country, and getting the current data on available products can be quite a challenge.

The solution. The best way to get the actual list of products and prices for them is to contact the stores directly so they can provide updated information about the inventory. It is made easier if they have access to, for example, a special partner account, allowing them to make adjustments to their products and prices themselves.

Wrong product delivery

The human factor has a big impact on grocery delivery. Shoppers may deliver the wrong products from time to time.

The solution. Your support team is a lifeline in such situations. If a customer does receive the wrong item, then they should be able to contact the team via phone or email. Solutions to such problems can be refunds, store credit, etc.

Out of stock items

This is another common issue. Keeping an eye on thousands of products is a difficult task even in one store, so out-of-stock issues are just a part of the routine.

The solution. You can provide users with the option of adding notes to the product — what alternatives a shopper can buy. Or a simple but effective addition to the app: allow partners to mark those products that are often out of stock. Such a feature helps manage the clients’ expectations.

Shorter delivery time

Not every delivery app can provide users with same-day delivery. Shorter delivery times can become your competitive advantage.

The solution. When hiring shoppers, ask them to define which stores exactly they are ready to buy products in. This way, each shopper will be “attached” to a store or several stores, resulting in faster deliveries.

Freelance shoppers

Individual shoppers work as freelancers which means it is hard to control when exactly a shopper will be ready to process an order. But time is everything for high-quality service.

The solution. To cope with this issue, you should consider adding higher charges for peak shopping times. Shoppers may be interested in earning a few extra dollars and will plan their schedules accordingly.

When deliveries matter

Delivery services like Instacart give people around the globe a completely new shopping experience, especially when the COVID-19 lockdown requires staying at home. You pick items from your favorite store and then wait for them to appear on your doorstep. Is it worth investing in this trend? We have no doubts about it.

You can build a food delivery platform if you already have a physical store (or a chain) or by partnering with other stores and providing delivery services solely. In any case, a smooth app workflow and well-established partnerships with shoppers make a winning combination for your business success.

Looking for a development team to help you build a local delivery app and overcome the challenges we have listed above? Eastern Peak’s experts are just one click away — let’s discuss your software startup.

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