Instacart and Grocery Delivery Apps During a Time of Tremendous Growth and Challenges

Grocery delivery platform Instacart has experienced highs and lows within the last year largely due to an increase in demand for delivered goods during the pandemic and dissatisfied workers over undesirable pay and policies. We’ll explore those challenges and how Instacart has pivoted to accommodate them, from both a market and consumer standpoint below.

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Using NetBase Quid’s social media analytics tools, companies like Instacart can explore online conversations surrounding their brand and industry to gain actionable insight. They can also use NetBase Quid for crisis management to deal with issues as they arise, like the protests and strikes that took place in 2020 fueled by Instacart workers wanting hazard pay, safety gear, and an expanded sick leave policy during the pandemic. Workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, and Shipt also protested their employers’ failures to protect them.

With NetBase Quid, brands can gain competitive intelligence to see where they stand in the market and where they have room for improvement. Despite its recent challenges, Instacart is in good standing as it experienced a major rise in revenue during the pandemic, with a 500% increase in order volume during the initial lockdown. Instacart partners with major grocery retailers like Costco and Walmart and continues to add to its partnerships regularly. After the boom of 2020 and a huge funding round, Instacart was valued at $39 billion as of March of 2021.

Brand Monitoring Through Social Media Analytics

A key use case for any company using NetBase Quid is brand and competitive monitoring. In the example of Instacart, NetBase’s advanced technology can deliver an in-depth analysis as it scans millions of sources including social media, blogs, forums, and reviews. NetBase can help measure brand health by looking at important metrics like the volume of mentions and sentiment of a brand. Users can then compare these metrics to those of their competitors to see where they stand regarding brand awareness and reputation. Once users make sense of this social data, they can tie in the actionable insight from social analytics to their operational metrics and make better decisions regarding processes, PR efforts, content and messaging, and audience targeting.

When analyzing a topic on Instacart in NetBase, the sentiment drivers widget can display the attributes, emotions, behaviors, and things that drive sentiment in online conversations. Adding a filter for positive sentiment and looking at the term “recommend” in the behaviors category can highlight why users would recommend the platform to others.

This could lead to a better grasp of the public opinion and what users like about Instacart. Customers and workers alike have recommended Instacart on social media, blogs, and reviews. One customer states on Reddit that she is glad that Instacart shoppers can do her grocery shopping for her since she is close to senior age and also has a pre-existing condition so she prefers staying safe at home.

Instacart’s customer base has broadened to include more seniors and immunocompromised individuals, and the company could put in extra effort to provide a good customer experience to this demographic.

An Instacart worker recommended the app on Reddit from a worker’s perspective as he stated that he was able to get started the same day he signed up. Insights on social media can help brands understand their strengths and weaknesses so they can make decisions on what aspects of their app should stay the same and what needs change.


Media Monitoring Through Quid Pro

Quid Pro gives its users the opportunity to further understand their brand perception and brand position by monitoring how their brand is being talked about in the media. Quid’s contextual AI platform reads and analyzes billions of articles and offers immediate insights by organizing that content visually.

The following image depicts a network map derived from a Quid News/Blogs search of Instacart over the last year. Quid organized a sample of the most relevant articles about Instacart into clusters representing themes. Some of the more positive themes include the hiring of 300,000 shoppers due to the home delivery boom, a new funding round, and Instacart’s partnerships with Walmart, Best Buy, and Sephora for same-day delivery.


However, Instacart’s crises were also major themes in the media, including the theme, “Instacart Workers Plan Nationwide Strike,” which made up 10% of the search query results. In the network map view, users can notice the relative size of each cluster and the spatial relationship between them to learn about the dominant and emerging categories, or those central to the network. For example, the large size and central location of the cluster, “Gig Economy Workers,” shows the importance of this theme over the last year.

Competitive Intelligence in the Delivery App Industry

One of the main problems that Instacart has faced recently is its workers’ dissatisfaction with Instacart’s pay and policies. Meanwhile, a startup delivery company called Dumpling has gained momentum for having more favorable policies for its workers.

Several articles about Dumpling appear in the search results on Quid. Dumpling, which identifies itself as an “ethical alternative” to Instacart, has helped thousands of delivery workers establish themselves as their own independent grocery businesses. The drivers are responsible for finding customers, setting rates, and setting their hours and service areas.

While workers like the flexibility and more personal experience that the app provides, Dumpling has faced a fair share of backlash from workers as well, especially when the company removed the minimum tip option. This information provides crucial market intelligence about the pros and cons of different platforms in the grocery delivery industry.

Dumpling is just one example of a competitor to Instacart that gained significant media coverage during the last year. Brands can analyze media coverage and perception of competitors and then use this information to benchmark their brand position, spot market trends, and take advantage of competitive opportunities.

Crisis Management During the Pandemic

Studies have shown that news about a crisis or issue can spread to international media sources within just one hour. This is why it is so important to track crises and decide whether to issue a response and to act in a timely and thoughtful manner. Instacart has had to deal with several crises this year surrounding their workers.

Running a search in NetBase on Instacart can show users the top popular social media posts of the last year, including those surrounding crises. The following image is a tweet found in the popular posts widget on NetBase.


This Twitter user spreads the word about Instacart workers’ plan for a strike in late March of 2020 and she urges Instacart customers to refrain from ordering on the app during the strike.

While public opinion of Instacart suffered during this time, it eventually took action by listening to their unhappy workers. They vowed to improve pay and policies, especially with their support of Prop. 22. The passing of Prop. 22 has led to the reform of workers policies for both ride-hailing drivers and app-based delivery workers. These workers have seen some gains in pay and benefits like accident insurance while on the job.

Instacart is also offering a stipend to its workers of $25 to encourage them to get their COVID-19 vaccine. After analyzing all data sources, including social media, digital, customer care, and others, brands can pay attention to how their brand is being discussed during a crisis so they can understand the context of the issue and respond with an informed point of view.

A Shift in Shopping Habits Could Lead to Permanent Change and Growth

Despite the rollercoaster of 2020, Instacart is thriving and preparing for an IPO soon. Sephora and Best Buy partnered with Instacart in 2020, thus expanding its market to those interested in same-day delivery for beauty products and electronics. Many customers are really excited about all of the options for same-day delivery now and there is a lot of potential for more companies to partner with delivery services.

Even though it will be safer to shop in person when the pandemic risks subside, consumers now appreciate the convenience of delivery for their shopping needs and may continue to choose delivery often, even in the years to come following the pandemic.

Brands associated with delivered goods can learn a lot about the industry from social media analytics and market intelligence and can turn to NetBase Quid to gain insight on brand health and their industry overall. Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you how!

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