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Weeks after adding Trader Joe’s, Instacart now supports Whole Foods (thenextweb.com)
115 points by apoorvamehta 1789 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

Jessica grabbed me at the YC din last night and told me excitedly that she had some good news. I was sort of hoping it would be something more exciting, but it was that Instacart had added Whole Foods.

Instacart is one of those cos like HelloFax and Uber and Zappos (and Google for that matter) that people spontaneously mention to their friends in conversation: "You have to try it." That is a very good threshold for a company to cross.

My girlfriend and I have been using Instacart for quite some time now. Overall, the experience has been fantastic, mainly because of a bunch of free-delivery offers. While I really, really hope they stick around (especially with the addition of Whole Foods), almost every order has had some small problem. Usually these are substitutions of the items I really wanted, but occasionally we've gotten items that we didn't order. We weren't charged for the extras, and their customer service is absolutely top-notch. If anyone from Instacart is reading: please be careful to maintain your quality standards as you scale! I'm OK with the price premium and even delivery fees, as long as it's backed up with the current level of service. Great job, and good luck!

I hate it when the shopper buys something completely wrong (how do you mistake donuts for donut holes?). But...

> mainly because of a bunch of free-delivery offers

More than the grocery selection standards, I hope they work out pricing and demand. I should probably have sprung for the Amazon Prime-like pricing option and start planning more in advance, but lately I've run into problems where all the available delivery times the same day are gone before dinnertime or are like 5+ hours out at the earliest (wish they'd say that before I went browsing) and delivery fees are going up for the kind of grocery shopping I like to do (small number of items - now $7.99 delivery for under $30 - mostly from trader joe's that has an occasionally big markup from in-store prices).

This is on top of the annoyance that is the trader joe's storefront not being anywhere near as nice as the safeway one (picture quality sucks or doesn't even exist, mislabeled items, lots of missing items from store or listing things that I know aren't sold right now like egg nog)... and they're adding another big supermarket? Hrmph. (Yes, I have mentioned these problems to their customer support).

Love the service's convenience though, and their customer service is definitely top notch. Every time I think of wavering and just getting a Zipcar to go to Trader Joe's for half an hour I just think of the service I received in the past and change my mind.

Shopping is hard in general, but especially so when the list gets bigger. You end up making more circles through the store and it's hard for the human brain to validate that the 20 things in my cart are the same as the 20 items in the list. As far as error prone-ness, this is on the level of matrix multiplication ;)

There's a use case for Google Glass right there. Amazon already has the product recognition software problem fairly nailed. The person doing order fulfilment simply holds the product at eye level before placing it in the card, and it deletes from the list until there's nothing left.

Step two: integrate with inventory management so Glass tells the human where to go. Step three, replace the human with a robot and the store with the local distribution warehouse.

Don't need Google Glass for that, a smartphone is enough.


Except for the not needing extra hands part...

> it's hard for the human brain to validate that the 20 things in my cart are the same as the 20 items in the list

In this age of smart-everything, there's no help for that?

Seems strange.

Further, to make things even less difficulty, I'd think it'd be rather straight-forward to map out the select stores they go to in the extremely small set of markets they serve. Certainly considering this is their profession, no?

They could make an app for that.

Some stores change their layouts around occasionally, mostly when new product comes in that needs space. I've seen at larger chains where nearly the entire grocery department switches overnight. I don't know if Trader Joes or Whole Foods does this, but that's something to take into consideration if you're mapping products.

Similar experience - their customer service is great, but the one time I tried using them they missed about a quarter of the items in my order (of only a dozen items). Their website was also an extremely buggy MVP - images didn't match what was delivered, and navigation was a mess. I like the idea, but I'll wait for them to iron out the kinks in their service.

What is the "slight margin" they add? 5%? 10%?

We have used Peapod a few times, a grocery delivery service here in the Northeast serviced by Stop and Shop. I couldn't figure out how they offered it so cheaply, as the prices are the same they are in stores. They charge delivery ($7) though you can often get offer codes.

Then I found out that apparently orders are serviced from a separate warehouse, where everything is categorized and optimized for online orders. It makes sense -- I couldn't picture guys walking through the store collecting 10 carts worth of orders.

Unfortunately even though it was only slightly more pricey, it still added to much to our household costs since groceries are such a huge part of a family's budget (avg family of 4 spends $770/mo). Not to mention delivery added on to the cost as well.

My boyfriend thinks it's a nearly universal 5% on safeway items. I shop at Trader Joe's a lot, and I notice varying margins on the items I always get (what is nearly universally $2.99 on milk in multiple locations I go to all over CA is $3.89 on instacart) but the minimum is generally 5-10%. Some items seem to be loss leaders: Instacart occasionally offers Oreos from Safeway for $2.xx which kill me because I love Oreos, especially since they're more like $4 in the market. Right now they're just over $4.

Having seen people around the nearby Safeway wearing Instacart shirts, I'm pretty sure they're walking through the store collecting multiple carts worth of orders. It would be fantastic if they had a warehouse as you mention, but I don't think that's happening as long as they have multiple supermarket options available.

I wish the general delivery pricing scheme were more transparent though - I've now discovered the "under $30" delivery fee and the "free delivery for $60+" seems to be standard, and I have to add enough items to figure out what 1 hour shopping costs.

We use Peapod too, and work it out so that we only get two orders a month to minimise delivery costs. Peapod's groceries are serviced from groceries that have arrived, but have yet to go onto the Stop & Shop floor, so they're fresher than you can get at the grocery store – the veggies and meat last a lot longer.

I ran the numbers a couple months ago. They added roughly (on average) 20% to in-store Safeway prices, in addition to charging for delivery.

I noticed at the time that they were scraping everything off Safeway.com's listings. Safeway.com prices themselves had a certain % markup on top of in-store prices, and Instacart had added its own markup to the Safeway.com prices.

Things may have changed since then. I expect prices to fall as they scale.

the prices are the same they are in stores

even though it was only slightly more pricey

Were the prices the same, or were they higher?

The prices of the items themselves are the same. It's slightly more pricey due to the delivery charge and tip.

Try marketing this to paleo dieters, but go a step further. The buyer sets a budget and rough guidelines but otherwise instacart makes all the food decisions. Real hunter gatherers didn't have a lot of choice in their meals!

Yes, let's base our business model on a niche fad diet.

Sarcasm because... nobody has ever made money riding the wave of fads. Hmmm.

A diet we've been eating for 3 million years is a fad? Wow, I'd like to know what you think of Italian food then, a nano fad?

Mankind did a lot of things for millions of years that we don't do anymore, so I don't see how that's relevant.

It's relevant because they were mostly disease free on that diet. We switched our diet on a dime and now we're sick.

I have no idea what you're talking about. Disease is less prevalent now than it has ever been in history. People live longer and better lives than ever before.

>Disease is less prevalent now than it has ever been in history.

While I fault the parent for lack of nuance, I fault you for the same. "Disease" is a complicated thing which has many dimensions. What you're pointing out is that the low-hanging fruit are sorted and that's great! Parent was saying [edit: I assume] that chronic diseases were less frequent and we have epidemiological evidence that was the case.

Not that I agree with shanev, but this is misleading. If anything, modern health has improved in spite of our (shitty) diets.

That's a little facetious, isn't it? The fact that there is a fad around this diet has nothing to do with it's provenance. It's a fad diet for most people because they adopted it because of the fad and they will drop it just as quickly. That doesn't mean it's a bad diet, just that fashion is fickle.

Who is Instacart's target market? Are people really too busy to go to the grocery store and are willing to pay a premium for delivery? Amazon works because their items are actually cheaper than retail. If Amazon items were priced at a premium, few would use it. I personally enjoy grocery shopping. It's a relaxing break from my day. I like picking out my own produce and cuts of meat. I don't think it's something many people would be willing to outsource.

Even with a car it can be pretty annoying going to TJs. The one near me always has a massive line and is super hectic. ZenCart FTW.

People who don't have a car, mostly.

When I lived outside a big city, I didn't think twice at going a few miles to the Trader Joes, even if I didn't need much. Right now, I'm in San Francisco and without a car, and it's an event to go just about anywhere from where I live, short of a small corner store.

You should try out ZipCar. I'm not pitching it against InstaCart, which will prove to be cheaper for groceries, but more like a trip to Fry's or Ikea maybe.

I've been using Ocado in the UK to deliver most of my shopping over the past 3 years. I'd rather relax with a good book than by searching for groceries and lugging them home. Not to mention, not everyone owns a car, especially not in London — and not in San Francisco, either.

I would. If this was available here in NJ, I'd be on it in a heartbeat. TJs and WF are two of my favorite stores and they're both relatively far from me, about 25 minutes away. Add the time spent finding items on shelves and I would be looking at a serious time saver.

personally, i happily walk to safeway and whole foods when i want stuff from there, but by the time i take a taxi or two buses each way to trader joe's, i might as well just let instacart deliver. i definitely don't buy fresh produce that way, but there are some prepackaged things for which i prefer the trader joe version to the stuff i can get in my walking neighbourhood.

Most of the big supermarkets in the UK have had this service for a while. I use the ASDA (owned by Walmart) home grocery delivery every week and it's a great service!

Tesco, Sainsburys and Iceland also offer this service. I've worked with two of these supermarkets to build the ecommerce platform that powers this (as a Java consultant).

I'm surprised this is exciting news in the US!

I first purchased groceries online in the UK in 1987 - using Prestel and a 1200/75 modem.

I'd guess that the French Minitel service had this available even earlier.

This is awesome. I probably won't go to the grocery again.

I would love to use InstaCart. Their interface is leagues above what my Safeway offers, and I'd love to get TJ/WF stuff as well.

Only issue - I'm out of their delivery range - I'm desperately waiting for expansion.

Join the rest of the 99.9% of the world who don't have access.

I needed Advil today at my client site in Arizona and wished desperately that I could use Instacart. Also wanted to buy my girl some simple flowers and get them sent to her back home in L.A... FTD minimum for flowers is like $50 - there are so many times I wish I could use this service... can't wait to see how it takes off and expands to more products and areas.

This leaked in their iPhone app update release notes a day or two ago. I was surprised to see no one seemed to notice for a bit!

Nice work, this is really starting to get interesting! WebVan reborn, but with better selection and hopefully a more sustainable business plan. Unfortunately, I live in Los Altos Hills. Palo Alto and Mountain View are in the coverage area, but as usual when it comes to delivery, we are not.

Just tried it and the website had extremely slow response in both Chrome and Firefox. It would basically show the first line of pics and then go to a blank window with small scroll thumb on the left (?why?) and never respond again.

I'd be interested to hear how well this works with produce. In the past I've had qualms about using things like Safeway delivery - I'd end up with mushy fruit and wilted vegetables.

A likely problem when you have the store itself doing the picking and delivering is that they have a significant incentive to pick the worst produce for you--the most bruised apples, the wilted-est lettuce--because it gets it off the shelves. If you have a third party do the picking, you'd hope to get indifference to quality at worst and careful selection at best.

I just got Trader Joe's Instacarted yesterday. I had no problems with produce - the shopper picked out possibly the best red bell pepper I have ever seen.

I also received a free upgrade because I ordered for three tomatoes and it turns out they come in packs of five.

We use Amazon Fresh here at the office and the fruits/veggies definitely have a pretty short shelf life when compared with doing the shopping myself

Tough to say since Trader Joe's is renowned for having fairly terrible produce in store.

Congrats, Apoorva. Now, when is it coming to the East Bay? :)

East bay? How about just to Redwood City. I'd be happy with that :)

Instacart needs to team up with USPS. I am sure USPS wouldn't mind delivering groceries instead of junk mails.

Every pack of tomatoes comes with a mortgage offer, car ads, "coupons", and a pumpkin that was supposed to be delivered six houses down. Also, you don't get your tomatoes.

The economics don't work. Something like FreshDirect is a much more viable business IMO.

IMO even if they make a slight loss on deliveries, there are other ways to add more monetization, so it's probably worth just winning the market first.

Good product/market fit I think.

Does anybody know which regulation they are running into on alcohol delivery?

See here for the comment thread about that issue, including the article providing more details.

Also read the comments for pg's epic opinion about Instacart. pg-approved!


Only SF and Mountain View/Palo Alto. That's not helpful to me unfortunately.

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