Exactly one month ago Instacart announced that it would add 300,000 new Shoppers (the gig workers who do the shopping and actual delivery) to its ranks over the ensuing three months. Today, the company announced that not only has it already met that goal, bringing its total Shopper count to 500,000, but it is adding another 250,000 Shoppers to keep up with orders.
According to a press announcement emailed to The Spoon, Instacart’s order volume grew by more than 500 percent year-over-year last week, and average customer basket sizes increased by 35 percent. The quarter-million new Shoppers will be focused on 6 main regions with the most demand including California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Toronto.
Grocery retailers and delivery services like Instacart have struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of online grocery orders from people sheltering in place. Actually getting a delivery time can be worth more than gold in some regions of the country, with delivery window only available weeks out. Earlier this month, Instacart added new features like order ahead to help alleviate some of the strain. But ultimately, with stay at home orders seeming like they will be here for a while for most of the country, Instacart just needs people.
This need for more Shoppers also comes at a time when a record number of people are losing their jobs. With restaurants closing along with other non-essential services there are millions of people looking to make some much-needed money. Being a gig worker won’t provide benefits, but it can mean making an income.
It’s important to remember, however, that these eventual 750,000 gig workers are also putting themselves at risk. They are going into the grocery stores and bringing food to the people who won’t leave their own houses for fear of catching the virus.
Along with today’s headcount announcement, the company also announced another round of new COVID-19 protections and services for its Shoppers. Instacart now has a daily in-app Shopper wellness check to monitor health, extended sick pay for workers afflicted with or isolated by COVID-19, extended bonuses for in-store teams until the end of the pandemic, and easier access to health and safety kits.
Instacart’s COVID-19 response record has been mixed at best. Shoppers got so fed up with what they perceived as insufficient protections that they went on strike earlier this month. Though labor relations evidently haven’t stopped people at home from using the service (just make sure you tip generously if you do!).
With more people getting used to shopping for groceries at home, this demand for Instacart could be sustained for some time even beyond the pandemic, requiring hundreds of thousands of more Shoppers.