I suck at grocery shopping, at least compared to some of my friends. One knows exactly what vegetables go into a killer get-the-hell-out-of-bed smoothie. A gymrat buddy can suggest a healthier alternative to any popular foodstuff. And my favorite drunk has all the cocktail bar essentials memorized. Some of them already use grocery delivery service Instacart. Now I want them to be able to do the shopping for me.
Instacart does its best to digitize the grocery store experience. The $10.8 million-funded Y Combinator startup breaks up items into intuitive categories, and it ranks popular ones from each at the top. But the friction is still in the decision making process.
Shopping is exhausting, and in some ways, Instacart’s massive set of options makes it worse. In a supermarket, you have every brand and variation of a product right before your eyes. Because Instacart can only fit so much on the screen, and only shows items from one grocer at a time, it can be tough to know if you’re picking the tastiest, cheapest, or healthiest stuff. There’s also no easy way to price-compare, and no crowdsourced product ratings — two more features I think would help.
When confronted with too many options without a clear winner, humans tend to lock up and refuse to make any choice. For Instacart, this analysis paralysis could cause people to abandon their half-full shopping carts.
Meanwhile, it turns out that making decisions is like flexing a muscle, and if we overexert ourselves, we get weak and start making poor, hasty choices. This decision fatigue could cause Instacart users to rush through the end of their order, end up missing things they wanted, buying lower quality items, and having a worse experience.
Alongside informing people that you can actually order your groceries from your computer or phone, and hammering out logistics of reliable delivery, I’d bet that combatting these mental states will be one of Instacart’s biggest challenges.
That’s why I want Instacart to offer sharable shopping lists. Like sharable music playlists but for groceries.
My friends would be able to broadcast or privately share their whole list of purchases, or a selection of them centered around a theme like “Morning Juice Ingredients,” “Healthier Versions Of Your Favorites,” or “Cocktail Bar Starter Kit.” With a single click, I could add the same items or locally available substitutes to my cart, and boom, I’m shopping smarter with much less work.
And think if Instacart got celebrities sharing shopping lists? I’d love to eat what 4-Hour Body author Tim Ferriss orders. Well-toned starlets could show you how to get their bodies. Maybe the pizza-obsessed Jennifer Lawrence would even share her favorite late-night snacks. You can bet their fan bases would sign up for Instacart to shop like the stars.
Right now, Instacart has a “Recipes” feature curated by food blogs that offers shoppable ingredient lists and instructions for making dishes. But the only individual I saw recipes from was Martha Stewart. Plus I’m not looking for how to cook a specific dinner as much as improve my entire diet and drop the TechCrunch 10 I’ve picked up blogging from bed. Instacart told our writer Alex Wilhem six months ago that it was going to one day let people upload their own recipes, but we haven’t seen it yet.
So Instacart, here’s your opportunity to make groceries social. Give us shareable shopping lists so I’ll never have to try to carry all my food-filled bags in one trip again, because you’ll be delivering them.