A same-day grocery delivery service that launched in Philadelphia less than four months ago is already expanding its services to other parts of the city and suburbs.
“The demand keeps growing so we have to keep following it,” said George Shotz, San Francisco-based Instacart’s City Manager in Philadelphia.
Instacart, which began in California in 2012, distinguishes itself from the other competitors available locally, like FreshDirect and PeaPod, with its ability to deliver groceries from higher-end markets like Whole Foods and Green Aisle Grocery, its shorter delivery window and its staff of “personal shoppers” – which has at least one customer as a fan.
"They call me when they are checking out,” said 36-year-old Bess Collier, an attorney who switched to Instacart in March after using FreshDirect for about 15 months. “They’ll say, ‘The store didn’t have this, but I got this for you instead, is that okay?’”
Instacart's grocery prices may be higher than listed in supermarkets. Delivery fees range from about $4 to $15, depending on the total order cost and the window of time the customer selects for delivery.
Shotz boasts one Philly-area customer received their groceries in 14 minutes and 14 seconds, one of the fastest delivery times for the entire company.
When Instacart entered the local market in mid-February, the company’s service area covered Center City, University City and certain neighborhoods in the northwest section of the city, like East Falls, Roxborough and Manayunk, along with nearby tony suburb Bala Cynwyd.
Shotz received a high volume of requests for Instacart service from residents in North Philly, the Northeast and northern suburbs like Elkins Park, Flourtown, Glenside, Abington, Jenkintown and Bensalem, prompting the delivery service’s expansion.
“Philadelphia was ready for a service like this,” Shotz said.
The expansion nearly doubles Instacart’s local service, a move that may appear risky since the company is still relatively new in the market, but Shotz says customers keep calling.
“Just last month we tripled our members,” said Shotz, who declined to name specific customer numbers, but added that the company has added 50 personal shoppers to the pay roll in less than three months and plans to hire another 15 by the end of the month.
One local marketing expert adds that the growth is sensible given how normal online shopping has become.
“People have their mobile phones with them all the time. We’ve been trained to do nearly everything online,” said David Bell, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It is just a natural rising tide.”
He adds the idea that grocery delivery is a luxury service has been debunked, opening up the potential for new customers.
“People now have this expectation that things can be delivered, my time is valuable,” said Bell, who explained Instacart could appeal to professionals as well as lower-income families.
“You might get people in terms of demographics that look much different,” he said. “But you are essentially addressing the same need, which is to be more efficient in how you source and consume everyday items.”
To find out if Instacart delivers to your neighborhood, visit its website.