Until recently, grocery shopping was a dreaded physical chore for most of us, pushing metal carts down up and down chilly aisles, waiting in long lines, and lugging heavy bags home.
In a world where we could fulfill most other household needs by ordering items online from the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Target, the painful grocery store experience seemed almost anachronistic, but it was never dangerous.
That all changed with the COVID-19, which turned the drudgery of grocery shopping into a serious health risk and an even bigger time suck for people who now must wait in line for their “turn” to shop.
This new reality created the perfect conditions for widespread adoption of online grocery shopping and delivery.
A whopping 65% of consumers have altered their shopping habits due to COVID-19, with first-time usage of online grocery services jumping to 28% in March.
These trends have fueled the ascent of Instacart, an online grocery delivery app that connects the "last mile" between regional grocery stores and consumer homes. Instacart’s app downloads increased by nearly 300% from February to March alone.
Instacart has become an essential service to the many Americans quarantined at home, but what does this mean for advertisers?
Should brands be thinking about nascent advertising opportunities on platforms like Instacart?
Fortune Favors the Prepared
How was Instacart able to seize this moment and capitalize on unprecedented demand? It wasn’t luck. Instacart’s many helpful features like pre-loaded shopping lists, recommended items, discounts, and a way to manage loyalty programs create a customer experience that is intuitive and easy to manage.
Even before COVID-19, Instacart’s popularity was growing steadily as early adopters recognized the app as a helpful time-saver. And despite growing pains to meet increased demand, Instacart has emerged as a key player in online grocery delivery as well as a game-changing advertising platform for brands -- particularly those selling groceries and perishable goods.
Why Should Brands Care?
Like Google, Amazon, Walmart, and other online marketplaces, there are two ways for consumers to find products on Instacart: through organic rankings in top sellers, in-stock items and previously purchased items, and through recommended products in Sponsored Search ads and other paid placements.
Recent enhancements to the Instacart Ads platform -- specifically their sponsored search ads, keyword optimization levers, and customized bidding -- have created new opportunities for brand marketing teams who are looking to protect in-store shelf-share, introduce new products to market, or take market share from competition.
However, what makes Instacart stand out is its scale and data. It delivers from 25,000 grocery stores in more than 5,500 cities across North America, which creates an unparalleled treasure trove of data.
Instacart offers unique visibility into consumers’ shopping and purchase behavior above and beyond a singular retailer or location, which has limitless implications on marketing and supply chain decisions, especially in our current environment.
They can also shed light on shopping behaviors and preferences relative to products not traditionally suited for ecommerce, such as perishable items like dairy. Given the "last mile" nature of the Instacart’s solution, categories that have been slow to engage in ecommerce advertising opportunities now have a solution to reach and engage consumers online and understand their shopping behavior.
Instacart, per reports, has already begun to share out some of these insights with CPG and manufacturer advertisers through their new consumer intelligence tool, but plans to make it more widely available in the coming weeks and months.
Seize the Moment
Brands should move quickly to explore Instacart not only to drive sales, but also to gain access to important shopper insights. The increase in online grocery shopping data can be analyzed to reveal trends, preferences, and new intelligence about shopper behavior.
Imagine knowing which combinations products are most often purchased together -- or which products are favored by location.
Brands that move quickly to advertise on Instacart will be able to gain important shopper insights ahead of the competition and identify their most valuable shopper audiences and apply these learnings to their bidding, discounting, audience targeting strategies, and ultimately reaching consumers with the highest LTV.
For those brands that are willing to embrace change and adopt their marketing strategies to remain in step with current and customer demand, there has never been a better time to explore the Instacart’s Ads platform. Time will tell how this will impact those brands that decide to sit this one out.