From mattresses to cars, many of the industries we once thought could only be done in person are now seeing great success online.
One of the most notable is grocery shopping.
In 2019, only 3% to 4% of grocery shopping in the US was done online. According to a recent CNBC study, that number soared to as much as 10% to 15% of total grocery sales in 2020.
That’s great news for side hustlers looking to make a little extra money delivering groceries. Chris Cucchiara, who’s only been shopping for Instacart for about two months, has already made over $4,500. About $3,000 of that was made in only 24 hours worth of driving.
If you’re a shopper who wants to maximize your earnings, Cucchiara provides some Instacart shopper tips to take advantage of.
7 Shopper Tips to Make the Most Money with Instacart
If you don’t already work for Instacart, you should sign up to become an Instacart shopper first. Once you’re ready to accept your first batch, which is what Instacart calls their orders, you can start looking for how to make the most money with Instacart.
Instacart guarantees a minimum batch payment between $7 and $10 for shopping and fulfillment, based on your location. If you only fulfilled the delivery of an order, your guaranteed minimum payment is $5.
Shoppers who shop and deliver batches are independent contractors, whereas those who don’t do deliveries are considered part-time employees of Instacart or the grocery store they’re shopping at. This distinction makes delivery more lucrative and gives you more ways to optimize your earnings.
1. Go to a location with high demand.
To get higher earnings you’ll need more batches. The best way to make the most money with Instacart is to be in an area with high demand. These zones have less competition and more opportunities to find higher payments per batch.
Instacart has recently updated its Shopper App to help you find these high-demand areas. The app will show if your current zone has limited batch availability, and if there’s another zone nearby with more. Orange and red “busy areas” indicate where more batches are available, and you can move to any busy area you choose.
2. Be selective with the batches you choose.
Cucchiara says the real secret to achieving high earnings is to be selective with the batches you pick. “The key is to wait to take orders until they make you about $30 per hour,” he said. “This is done by getting preferably only one order and not two or three.”
He also says to take into consideration the number of items in the order and the total distance. While Instacart does pay you $0.60 per mile, he says you can make the most money with Instacart by sticking to batches that are closer to the store to cut down on delivery time and open you up to another batch as quickly as possible. He’s found the sweet spot for completing a delivery in an hour is about 25 to 40 items in a batch.
Cucchiara says he sees these optimal batches in the morning, later at night on the weekdays, and around 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.
Tips play a big part in earning a high hourly rate. “The average percentage of tips I get is around 15 percent of the shop,” he said. “I try to get orders that offer higher than normal tips, so it makes financial sense.”
But don’t be too picky, especially when you’re starting out. One of the ways Instacart prioritizes who they show batches to first is by the number of batches they accept. The app will end your shift if you reject too many shops in a row.
3. Get peak hour pay boosts.
During “peak” times, Instacart incentivizes shoppers with a pay boost for each batch. Peak boosts can go up to $12, but Cucchiara mostly sees ones around $8 in his area.
Peak time slots are competitive, but the Instacart Shopper App lets you see peak times before selecting your shift. To make sure you get one, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to claim your shift before they’re all gone.
4. Improve your customer rating.
In November 2019, Instacart discontinued the “quality” bonus that gave shoppers a $3 bonus for every 5-star rating. But there’s still incentive to improve your customer rating.
Instacart has said the highest-rated shoppers will be able to view and accept batches first. While this negatively affects new shoppers, you’ll get consistent access to more high-ticket batches once you have several 5-star reviews.
Always think of small ways you can go above and beyond, but Cucchiara says don’t forget to be proactive about avoiding pitfalls that lead to lower reviews.
“Keep a charger on you and a computer in your car, just in case your phone dies or is about to. That way you can plug it in and keep shopping,” he said. “[You] don’t want to run out of juice while you’re in the store.”
5. Be quick.
Cucchiara also emphasized the importance of speed when trying to make the most money with Instacart. He prefers drop-offs near grocery stores to limit driving and be in proximity of your potential next batch.
Selecting low-travel batches is one way to be quick, but there are plenty of time traps you can also avoid to give yourself an edge.
Don’t overthink replacements. The shopper app will suggest possible replacements, so unless you believe their suggestions are totally off-base, pick one and move on. Park in a spot that’s close to the exit and a cart corral so you can get out quickly.
Lastly, learn the layout of the stores. The better you know where items are, the quicker you can find them and get out.
“I doubled my income once I knew the stores better,” Cucchiara said. “Also, ask the people that work there for help. Even if you feel like you’re annoying them. This will help you get the orders done faster and get to know the stores better.”
6. Double check the app.
Cucchiara also says to renew the queue often to reveal new orders. “I scroll down a lot on the app when looking at the order queue,” he said. “Oftentimes if I don’t do that, I will miss orders.”
Making sure you see all the available batches will ensure you don’t miss high-paying orders that come up after the smaller ones.
7. Refer your friends.
If you have friends who want to get paid to shop, Instacart will pay you to refer them.
Once you’ve logged at least 40 hours on the platform, you’ll get a personal Instacart referral code and link to share. When someone signs up using your referral code or link, is approved, and completes 45 batches in 30 days, you’ll get a referral bonus.
The actual bonus varies by your location, but it’s reported to be anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
How to Know if Instacart is The Side Hustle for You
Grocery delivery can be a great way to make extra income, but it’s not for everyone. Those best suited for Instacart are people who are familiar with their local grocery stores and surrounding neighborhoods, quick on their feet, and can lift around 40 pounds without help.
If you find it’s not for you, there are plenty of other side hustle apps to help you make extra income.
Whatever side hustle you choose, remember that putting a little extra effort and thought into whatever you’re doing is the only way to yield above average earnings in the long run.