Introducing Instacart’s New Earnings Structure for Shoppers

Instacart Shopper News
The Instacart Checkout
4 min readOct 10, 2018


In April, a team of Instacart engineers, designers, and product managers traveled to Boulder, CO to spend a week with sixteen shoppers. We shopped with them, learned about their experiences with Instacart, and enlisted their feedback on a new earnings structure aimed at providing more transparency and consistency across orders.

Since then, we’ve been slowly testing the new earnings structure in more markets, gathering feedback along the way, and calibrating our approach to ensure this new model is truly better for shoppers. We’ve collected this feedback through surveys, in-person sessions, our Shopper Experience Council, and from our Community Support agents who hear from our shoppers everyday. In every test market, our shoppers have told us they prefer new earnings to the existing structure.

New earnings has been piloted with all shoppers in Boulder, Sacramento, Orange County, and Instacart’s recently launched new markets. On Monday, we expanded to Atlanta, Houston, and Denver. Based on the positive feedback we’ve received from shoppers across the country, we’re introducing the new earnings structure to Full Service Shoppers nationwide by the end of the year.

Details On Our New Earnings Structure

When it comes to earnings, there are several key themes that are really important to our shoppers. First, they need more transparency about the details of each batch prior to accepting orders to help them make better, more informed decisions based on their availability and earnings goals. Second, our earnings structure should be order driven — offering more consistency based on the time and difficulty of each batch.

Based on our shopper feedback, these themes became key tenets of our new earnings structure, which offers:

  • Batch Transparency: Shoppers will be able to preview additional information before accepting batches — including an estimated earnings total, the specific items in the batch, and a map with store and customer addresses. After completing each batch, shoppers will also see a breakdown of total earnings.
  • Pay Per Mile: In response to one of the top shopper requests, we will now pay per mile from the suggested store to delivery location(s).
  • Batch Consistency: Shoppers have told us that each batch is unique, and our payments did not always seem proportionate. As part of this new earnings structure, we will now consider a wider range of factors in calculating the Batch Incentive, including number of units, types of items, retailer, store location, and special requests, among others.
  • Quality Bonus: Get a bonus for every five-star rating on Full-Service orders.
  • Customer Tips: We’ve recently redesigned checkout, making it easier for customers to tip. As always, Shoppers receive 100% of customer tips.
  • Peak Hour Pay Boosts: Occasionally, shoppers may be offered additional pay during hours when the need for shoppers is high. Shoppers will be able to see peak times in advance of selecting their shift. Please note, Peak Boosts will only be available in select times and places.

These changes have been designed to keep average earnings the same as under the prior system, while paying more consistently for time and effort across different kinds of batches.

Here are screenshots of the new batch acceptance and batch summary screens:

Committed To Shopper Feedback

We believe that the new earnings structure is a big step in the right direction to offer the transparency and consistency that our shoppers have been asking for. While we’ve made dozens of changes based on their feedback, we want to highlight a few of the areas that we believe we can still improve on:

During testing, many shoppers told us that they “don’t like that the name of the grocery store is not listed on the screen until after batch is accepted” and that more information about “where it will be delivered helps greatly in deciding to accept or not.” In response to these requests, we’ve added more detailed information about the store and customer locations on the batch acceptance screen.

Shoppers have told us that it can be frustrating to receive the same batch over and over again. We’ve made a couple changes to help with this. First, we no longer assign the same batch to any shopper more than twice in a row. Second, if multiple shoppers have declined a batch, we take that as an indication that we aren’t paying the right amount for that batch, and adjust the incentive accordingly.

Some shoppers have also told us they want more information about the factors that determine batch incentives. In response, we’ve added more information in the app and Help Center.

Finally, we’ve heard a lot of feedback from shoppers about heavy orders. We agree that there’s more work to do to better reflect the difficulty of heavy weight orders. While we don’t receive weight information from most of our retail partners, we’re currently building a system that will allow us to better determine the weight of heavy items and adjust the batch incentives accordingly. Determining the weight of every item in our catalog is going to take time, but we’ll start incorporating new weight data into our batch incentive calculations once it’s available.

While we have heard feedback from thousands of shoppers about the new earnings structure, we are always interested in hearing more. We look forward to continuing to receive valuable feedback from our shoppers so that we can continue to improve. Please use this link to let us know what you think about the changes and what we can do better.