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Groceries at the Speed of Light: Testing the Instacart App

Jess Shutt  |  January 12, 2016
Increasingly, the digital world on our computers and phones has found a way to interact with the real world of our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s ordering a ride with Uber or buying aspirin with Amazon Pantry, real-life experiences are being merged with the digital. Now, Instacart is hoping to bring your grocery shopping experience online.

What’s Instacart?

"If you need groceries in a hurry, the best choice is Instacart." — The Wall Street Journal
Instacart is a San Francisco Bay Area-based company that wants to build “the best way for people anywhere in the world to shop for groceries.” For them, the “best way” to buy groceries is ordering them online, either on your computer or phone, and having your order arrive at your home within a couple of hours.

Our research

Focusing on the mobile experience, we ran a remote usability study to watch actual Instacart power users and new users record the process of ordering from Instacart’s mobile app. A couple of hours later, when their groceries arrived, users recorded the experience of receiving and unboxing their order in their homes.The qualitative insights that we found allowed us to better understand the signup and ordering process, users’ delights and frustrations with their orders, and in what scenarios they would choose to use Instacart over traditional grocery shopping.UserTesting’s mobile recorder tracked our users’ actions across the screen as they swiped and scrolled through the app, and it recorded their voice as they spoke their thoughts aloud. Additionally, it captured their delivery and unboxing experience by recording their real world experience through the camera on participants’ phones.

The results

The convenience of Instacart was clear to both new and experienced app users. Common use cases that came to mind was when they were too busy, sick, or tired to go to the grocery store.More than that, the clean layout made users feel like they could easily find the best items for them. Whether looking for high-quality items or budget-friendly items, users felt that the app could equally suit their needs.“We’re really busy and don’t always have time to go to the store during the day, and after work, we definitely don’t want to go to the store. Anytime we order from Instacart, it’s always positive.” – Male participant, 26, United States

Signing up

Creating an account was a very easy process for new users. The options to sign up via Facebook and Google+ provided convenience for users who were comfortable connecting their accounts. Meanwhile, users who signed up using the traditional signup flow had a similarly easy time because the process was only two steps, with a total of five fields to fill out.

Ordering groceries

When shopping, users liked that they could first select the item they were interested in (like strawberries) and then select more details about that item (like organic California strawberries). By breaking up the purchasing flow into two steps, Instacart allowed shoppers to have a lot of control over their purchasing decisions, without making the options overwhelming.The related items for each product allowed users to easily find the best purchase for them. It provided them with a wealth of food to interact with and explore, without ever seeming overwhelming or too “ad-like.”“This is better than shopping at the supermarket because everything is so categorized” – Female participant, 39, United States

Recipe-inspired shopping

Instacart’s “Lists & Recipes” inspired users to purchase items they weren’t originally considering purchasing. By listing recipes and then making it easy for users to add the ingredients necessary for the recipe to their cart, the app inspired users to try new things. Users particularly liked the ability to easily switch ingredients if necessary for other items, which would help if an item was out of stock or if the user was concerned about a dietary restriction in one of the recipes.

Order timing and quality

One of the biggest conveniences of Instacart is that your order will get to you within a couple of hours. Considering that grocery shopping can normally take an hour or longer, this timeline is ideal. Users were consistently impressed with how Instacart always lived up to their promise and met their impressively fast timeline.“If they tell you it’s going to be between this time and this time, it’s usually closer to the earlier time.” – Female participant, 38, United StatesOrder quality was always the biggest concern that users had. This manifested itself in two ways: a fear of ordering certain produce or goods that they didn’t select themselves and a fear of how the orders were bagged. However, Instacart impressively met these challenges and consistently delivered high-quality goods. None of our participants were disappointed in the condition their orders were in when they arrived. “Let’s check out the eggs – see if any of them are cracked. Looks good!” - Male participant, 26, United States
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About the author:

Jess Shutt leads one of UserTesting's UX research teams. She is dedicated to helping make the world a user friendly place. In her free time, she loves science fiction and tea.