Compare Instacart and Shipt – Which is Better?
Are you wondering which grocery delivery service is the best? Do you have access to both Instacart or Shipt but can’t decide which one to begin using regularly? In the Atlanta metro area both services are available, and now that Instacart has the mandatory service fee, they pretty much price themselves competitively. While you might save on subscription fee with Instacart, you’ll end up paying that in 5% of the service fee. If you don’t want to read any further, make your choice on how each company treats its contractors because they, in turn, treat you better. The bulk of your delivery costs come inside the subscription delivery or services fees plus the markup of food and that runs between 10-20% on each item. Or by price comparison between Instacart and Shipt. (You can save money by using Kroger and using curbside pickup.)
This post takes into account the income strategies of the Shipt or Instacart contractor – if you need a much simpler comparison please read my Instacart versus Shipt – Who Wins? blog post. If you are morbidly curious about how much Instacart and Shipt shoppers make, keep reading.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
The secret to a successful grocery delivery program when prices remain relatively similar all comes down to the person who shops and delivers your groceries. We’ll assume that you’ve decided to choose one or the other and are okay with fees, tipping, and markup. Both grocery delivery services have some subscription base or a per delivery fee, markup on prices, and other pricing structures that provide a premium service to their customers. Both Instacart and Shipt use contractors to shop for groceries, deliver groceries, or do both jobs at once. If you use Kroger’s Clicklist system and have your groceries delivered, it’s a Shipt contractor who performs the delivery portion and a Kroger employee who shopped.
This year Walmart decided to end its partnerships with Uber and Lyft. One of the reasons cited was that delivery of groceries and people were just too far a gap to stretch. But don’t let either company fool you; they all knew that there was a gap. The reality is that grocery delivery is one of the lowest forms of pay that a budding entrepreneur/contractor can make in this gig or ride-sharing economy. If you know anything about Uber Pool or Lyft Line, then you can compare it to those very economical forms of transportation but ones that most Uber and Lyft drivers avoid.
As Terry of Atlanta will tell you, “Uber Pool Uber Fool.” Terry is one of the most notable ride-sharing drivers in Atlanta and he, among many other drivers, will create videos to attempt to help out new drivers understand the system or how to avoid micro-transit. What this comes down to is a few dollars pay for a multi-passenger and multi-stop ride-share.
I will tell you from experience ride sharing multiple stop/multi customers is one of the worst ways to make money. Ever. I started Lyft driving but didn’t last long because of the constant micro-transit (Lyft Line) requests, and I quickly realized that ride-sharing risks were too high. One day I did a Lyft Line that seemed to go on forever. I had three passengers all going three different places but generally in the same direction. If you aren’t familiar with it as a passenger, this means you get an even more discounted rate. Some passengers also accidentally choose an Uber Pool or Lyft Line rate and then are surprised when other passengers are picked up. Now Lyft’s subscription pilot already has a waitlist. I remember picking up a passenger from a laundry business one day to take her back to her apartment. She told me she used Lyft and Uber up to $300 per month because she couldn’t buy a vehicle yet. In cities like the metro Atlanta area, this is going to be huge. I digressed.
The reason I describe the mechanics are this: I believe the lowest rates available and similar jobs (contractors who drive for multiple streams of income) will drive down the quality of grocery shopping and delivery services because there is no value in taking a few extra moments to ensure customer service. In other words, unless Walmart, Kroger, and Publix do their own deliveries (own that business function), they will never be able to control quality once the bags leave the store.
Example: I had a pickup and delivery request for a Kroger Clicklist, and I made $8.00. As I’ve noted before my then average hourly vehicle costs are $1.60-$2.00 depending on location and time of day. The delivery included me helping the Kroger employee pack the bags into my trunk, and when we ran out of space, we had to use my back seats. There was over $300 worth of groceries in my car, and my insulated bags were overfilled. I also waited for the Kroger employee 5-10 minutes. When I arrived at the home, it took many trips from car to house to unload the groceries. So tell me – do you think that was worth $6 net? I knew if I had shopped the order myself (through Shipt or Instacart), that my time would have been better spent because I would have been invested in the customer experience and its subsequent result (higher pay and a tip). As well, if there had been 3-4 orders that I would deliver in rapid succession, then I could have made more but still, time is the critical element. So the key here is that as long as the orders are small and I can do multiple ones the reward is higher, but when the expectation is to deliver volumes of groceries for less than minimum wage it is particularly egregious.
Combining Income Strategies
So what does all this have to do with the comparison of Instacart and Shipt? Both grocery delivery services have delivery only components just like the example I gave you where drivers make only a few dollars. Those deliveries are interspersed with full shopping orders and both Instacart and Shipt have key performance indicators if you refuse to do delivery only orders. With Instacart, the benefit is that if you do delivery only and the customer tips, then that is shared by both the Instacart In-store shopper (mostly in Publix and Whole Foods) and delivery driver. With Shipt, it’s a pilot program through Kroger, and you don’t even see the deliveries on your daily results. **UPDATE: As of Sept 2018, you now see the deliveries. I’ve shown that a 1/3 of customers who I deliver groceries, don’t tip. I also demonstrated how to save over $700 annually just by ordering and picking up the groceries yourself. So in order to compare the two first you have to level the playing field with what you are willing to pay and only by using one or the other be prepared for a minimum of 10-20% food markup, a subscription fee to get the fastest deliveries with minimal items, and to tip your shoppers and delivery contractors.
Now how do the two compare? They are virtually the same thing except you may get access to different stores. In metro Atlanta, Instacart hasn’t added Kroger or Target, so if you want either of those, you’ll need to use Shipt. Also, if you like Aldi’s then Instacart will be your service. If you are okay with either Publix or Kroger the choice needs to come down to the contract shopper. **UPDATE: Instacart recently partnered with Kroger and in the Atlanta metro area you can use either.
Here’s the rub: Which company invests in providing the best possible work atmosphere, income possibilities, and opportunities for their contractors?
Let’s take a step back to Uber and Lyft because of all the gig-economy jobs those two can work in tandem. I’ve only been contracted with Uber and Lyft for a short while but I can tell you that Lyft engages the driver more, provides many different bonus opportunities, has guaranteed income type promotions, is visibly present at significant events, invites drivers to take an active role in their city hub, and offers discounted goods and services like a free subscription to Quickbooks self-employed. Only when I uninstalled the Uber Driver app did Uber send a text message to me asking if I wanted to have an Uber coach. I could never get past having to pick up customers who knew what I looked like, my name, my car make/model/color, and my tag number but I couldn’t say the same about them. (My pull off game just wasn’t Terry-good!) Lyft encouraged me weekly and still does even though I haven’t been in driver mode in a few weeks! I occasionally find holiday’s too tempting to resist.
Even though Uber and Lyft have entirely different styles and focus: they still allow the drivers to use both with an on-demand system and at the same time! This is critical because it expands a contractors ability to make a continuous stream of money without having to sit for long periods of time or wait for requests. Instacart and Shipt don’t do this and make it difficult to generate a continuous stream of work because both works on a scheduling system and neither allow too much leeway when it comes to scheduling your time.
Instacart makes this the most difficult. Not only do you have to pre-schedule your days but if you don’t schedule enough hours you can’t get early access and that practically bars you from getting the primo days like Sunday and Monday. If you are lucky to get a few hours on Sunday that only means about three full-service shops or doubles if you are lucky but you cannot do anything else in the time prescribed. Let’s say you schedule a 4-hour time slot on Tuesday and it’s incredibly slow. You have to wait for a full 2-hours of no orders to end your hours early without penalty. If you had early access to scheduling those heavy days you also risk losing that because when you stop hours early even if it’s a two-hour slow day, that comes off the top of your total scheduled hours and that deducts from early access goal.
With Instacart it’s a running two-week schedule and every Sunday (for early access) and Wednesday at 9:00 AM the Instacart Contractors make a mad dash for grabbing up as many hours as they can at one time. You can imagine how slow the system is on Sunday mornings. I literally sit next to my gig-router when I’m scheduling on Sunday morning because it’s that stressful. If, by chance, you got the 9:00 AM hour to work Instacart on Sunday (the BEST day to work), and you are rushing (driving or shopping) to complete an order you may miss the opportunity for good hours. It’s wholly inadequate and inefficient.
Coupled with this, if I had an unusually slow day and wanted to do something else like make a quick delivery for Roadie, drive a passenger for Lyft, or complete a small order for Shipt – it is IMPOSSIBLE. I must stay within my zone confines during the hours scheduled, and if I were to drive out of them, Instacart will warn me and then take me off shift, then give me a reliability incident. Too many of those (5 or more) and I’m So maybe I could complete a nearby order quickly? No, if I don’t arrive at the store within x amount of minutes after Instacart sends me a request I will also get a warning to move to the right location.
Shipt scheduling is the most efficient, although it could use some improvements. I choose the hours at any time and I can easily take the hours off if I need to. I have much more control of my schedule with Shipt and on days where Instacart is extremely slow, I wait for my two hours of not making any income to end my hours and quickly schedule a few with Shipt.
Instacart and Shipt: Building Trust
Here are the comparable differences: Instacart’s shopper app is pretty sweet but the contractor has to manually configure their phone security to allow the app to be updated continuously and they cannot do any other ride-sharing or gig-economy contract jobs while waiting for orders. With Shipt, the hours are scheduled by choosing which windows of times you want to deliver groceries and Shipt offers you those orders based on performance. It’s as simple as that. What you do to prepare for those orders or where you are physically located do not matter as long as your primary mission is to get the delivery done in the hour you scheduled. This allows you to take unclaimed orders Shipt may be offering and double up on orders as you see fit.
Shipt is like the parent who took off the training wheels so you could fly. Instacart is the parent has your social media account passwords and insists you share your Google location at all times. Which parent empowers and builds trust?
That’s the only comparison you need. Your grocery delivery contractors are probably contracting with both Instacart and Shipt, so they are naturally going to follow the one that allows them the most flexibility! The smart shoppers look for the maximum hustle for their income and will look to fly (get it?). They are the ones who pay close attention to detail, schedule themselves, and use many “side gigs” to make ends meet. Those are the shoppers you want focused on delivering your groceries.
Choose the service that respects the reality of the gig-economy contractors who need to do multiple jobs and leave the scheduling open-ended for maximum flexibility. Instacart has said they will be making changes, but until they unlock the contractor from strict schedules and geolocation controls, then the choice is obvious.