Shoppable carts make company ‘inspirational’

Instacart is on a mission to broaden its appeal beyond being a transactional platform. The company announced on Thursday the addition of shoppable carts: essentially, bundles of products recommended by retailers, celebrities, and creators.

“To me, it was obvious that our experience needed to evolve from transactional and utilitarian to inspirational,” Instacart CEO Fidji Simo tells Fast Company in an exclusive interview.

The company enlisted Lizzo to kick off the new campaign. The Grammy Award-winning singer has her own cart; other examples of shoppable carts include “Self Care Sunday,” “Late Night Noms,” and “Date Night.”

“All of these things are like mini stories that tell a universe of possibilities, and I think that’s at the root of a lot of the behaviors we see on the platform,” says Simo, who was hired to lead the company a little over a year ago. She points to school lunches as another example, saying that she used the feature (which was available to test internally) to figure out new recipes to pack for her daughter’s lunch.

The carts come alongside a broader sweep of investments in the platform. The company is also building on its shoppable recipe integrations to help recipe creators and food-focused developers make their websites commerce-enabled. That means bloggers and publishers can share recipes and, instead of having the reader write down every item and run to the store, the items needed can be instantly purchased on Instacart.

Instacart is also launching an affiliate network for creators, publishers, and developers, enabling them to monetize purchases that their audiences make on the platform. The feature, called Instacart Tastemakers, offers creators in the program 3% commission on qualifying purchases made via their shoppable links, a spokesperson tells Fast Company.

All the updates come as Instacart readies for its public debut. The company confidentially filed for an initial public offering in May, and is expected to hit the markets before 2023, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company declined to comment on the timing, citing its pre-IPO quiet period mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Investors are keeping a close eye on the company, considering a listing in 2022 would come as the IPO market is on pace for its worst year in decades.

Instacart was one of the pandemic darlings, getting a boost from consumers who cut trips to the supermarket and instead placed online grocery orders. Because of that positioning, the company was widely viewed as a prime candidate to go public this year. Then the markets began their steep sell-off due to decades-high inflation, increased interest rates, and the ongoing geopolitical conflict in Europe.

In March, Instacart slashed its internal valuation to about $24 billion from $39 billion. Still, the company, which also brings in revenue from advertising, has remained confident in its model. Simo says that despite concerns over the macro environment, customer spending remains strong.

The company has been leaning in to price-saving options, like offering users lower-cost scheduled delivery or the ability to pick up their own orders. “Our job is to really connect [customers] with all of the options that they have, to make grocery shopping more affordable,” Simo adds.

Those efforts appear to have given the company a boost. Instacart reached its highest quarterly revenue ever in the second quarter of 2022, up 39% year over year to $621 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, which also reported that the number of orders placed via Instacart increased 25% from the same period a year ago to more than 60 million. The company declined to comment on the figures.

“Our business continues to grow,” Simo says. “Yes, the pandemic accelerated a little bit of that adoption, but fundamentally, the biggest trends, and the most important trend, is a trend toward more online adoption. . . . The next five years are going to be about deepening that online adoption.”

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