How Does Instacart Work – Complete Workflow of Instacart Buyer App


Richard Branson said:

“A business is simply an idea to make other people’s lives better”

When such businesses happen, countless lives influenced by it change, some for the better and some in a manner that further influence others. Innovations in businesses like grocery, that are a part of our everyday lives, and have brought about big changes to entire grocery ecosystems.

Instacart has been one such business idea that has defined convenience in an altogether different manner. The buyers on the platform are provided an almost first-hand experience of shopping for their groceries and household items.

Broadly, every buyer on Instacart is able to generate their shopping list, which is picked up or assigned to a shopper who shops for these items, gets buyer’s approval on the platform and then delivers the package at their doorstep. It’s what we gather from every new process is what helps us change for the better.

With the Instacart platform and mobile apps facilitating a smooth shopping experience for both the buyer and the shopper, we have made a small effort to put together the process flow for the buyer on their platform. Entrepreneurs seeking to launch new business models in the online grocery domain can take home a lot from this brief write-up.

How does an Instacart app work?

From the time the buyer registers on the Instacart portal, till their grocery list reaches them, a series of steps help streamline the process. We will here walk you through the journey of a buyer on the Instacart platform.

Step 1:- Login

  • As the buyer logs in into the app, a confirmation for the delivery zip code is requested for delivery.
  • The delivery address allows stores to notify buyers in case they do not deliver in their area.

Step 2:- Selecting a store

The buyer then selects the store they want to order from and selects a store from where they intend to shop.

At this stage the buyer can:-

  • Search for items, browsing through the store’s list
  • Start adding Items to the Order
  • Bookmark items to purchase them later

Step 3:- Adding items to the cart

Once the buyer account is set, the address is stored, the buyer can start preparing shopping lists for ordering. The next few steps will help you understand the details to be kept in mind while selecting items for the list:

  • While preparing a shopping list on the Instacart platform, the buyers are offered discount coupons, which can be added prior to adding the items to the cart to save on their total bill.
  • Coupon conditions if satisfied get adjusted in the final bill.
  • Buyers communicate their requirements to shoppers who are out to fulfill their shopping list, detailing on the choices in case the mentioned items are unavailable.
  • In case of items that come in bunches need to be mentioned by the buyers so as to avoid quantity mismatch.
  • Meats and produce which is generally sold by the pound are listed in lbs. Such items are sold at 0.25 lb intervals beginning from as low as 0.25 lbs. Instacart prefills the starting weight at 1lb which can be tweaked using the + and – signs. 
  • Buyers can quickly add the product to their shopping list right from the search page by pressing the + sign. 
  • However, if they decide to tap the item to open the product’s page, they will find two options, quantity and “Add to Cart” at the bottom of the screen for additional details.
  • Buyers can add items that aren’t in Instacart’s database using the “Add a Special Request” button. They can search for the item using any possible combination of search terms and if they can’t find the item, they can scroll to the top of the page and tap the “Add a special request” button.

Please see the inline image to understand the flow:-

Add Special Request

Step 4:- Review order and add instructions

When all items have been added to a shopping list, the buyer can then review all inclusions and proceed to the next step:

  • When at the review page, the buyers can see their list of items to order, along with the product’s picture, name, size, quantity of the box, and subtotal for each item, followed by a total cost.
  • There is an Instructions button to guide shoppers on what specifications to look for while they pick items from the shelf such as – how the buyer prefers deli and produce items, or to keep a lookout for dates or something different altogether.
  • The ‘Remove’ button removes all units of an item in one go. So, in case the buyer would want to keep some units, they will have to search for that item once again to add it back.
  • Instacart Express is a paid membership service that can provide free delivery if buyers have delivery orders over a certain amount. There are running ads on the page on it for the buyer’s information.

Special Request_2

  • The “Checkout” button will then send buyer information to checkout mode.

Step 5:- Checkout


In the checkout mode, Instacart allows buyers to select suitable time slots to have their groceries delivered to them. Buyers leave their options and the following steps lead to order delivery:

  • There are hour-long slots that the buyers can select from.
  • There is also an option to select and leave a particular tip for the delivery vendors.
  • Towards the end of the page, there is a payment breakdown that buyers must review before they authorize the final order amount.
  • The “Place Order” button confirms the order, after which the order screen begins initializing.
  • The platform now exits buyers to the Instacart home screen with a dialog box designating their order delivery time and a link to their shopping and delivery order information.

Place Order

Step 6:- Following Up Process for delivery

Once the order is placed, the platform prompts the buyer with “Delivery (date)” as well as a message to add items before the order is delivered.

Coupon Savings

  • The buyers can even invite new customers to Instacart.
  • They can also watch their Instacart Shopper as they pick items off store shelves, scanning items from their mobile app as they go, substituting items if not found, or giving the buyer refunds where necessary.

Buyer Shopping

  • After that, the buyer needs to wait for their Instacart shopper to arrive at the delivery location. 
  • The buyer can rate the shopper substitutions and the shoppers too.

Rate your Shopper:-

Rate Shopper

Rate the Substitutions done by the Shopper:-

Item Replacement

Work flow In Case of Pick Up

When picking up an order, the buyer needs to find the right place to park as each store has a different setup. Some have dedicated pickup parking spots, while others have a curbside pickup lane, at times parking spots are taken, and the instruction signs are either unclear or hard to find.

  • So, incase of pick-up, the buyer as well as the shopper screens need to be observed. 
  • They are quite simple and self explanatory. Images provided by instacart’s design team include all details.

Buyer Side:-

Buyer Side

Shopper Side:-

Shopper Side_2

Read more: How Does Instacart Shopper App Work?

Concluding the Journey

As buyers on Instacart get to maneuver and monitor their grocery shopping from start to finish, they are virtually doing it themselves. With each step guided and carefully designed to take them through the whole process easily with the shoppers on-site for the task, buyers are confident and satisfied with their grocery shopping on the Instacart platform.

Prospective business aspirants looking to venture into the domain of online grocery can draw countless ideas and insights for a successful business model, flawless user journeys leading to the ultimate user-experiences.

Keeping customer or buyer convenience as the focal thought, great platforms can be built from basic solutions or MVPs developed keeping in mind inspirational business ideas like Instacart.

All that needs to be done is get in touch with a technology partner that has gained forte in launching distinctive businesses, building on a basic idea, customizing as per the vision with their expertise and agile methodologies.

FATbit Technologies is one such promising software partner that could help realise an e-commerce business dream, idea and vision to reality. It’s grocery software, Growcer can help you to build an instacart like app (with customization in base package).

Build an app like Instacart

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