Uber has rolled out updates to its Shop and Pay feature that address three of the most commonly raised courier issues: out of stock items, digital payments and order clarity before accepting a trip.
The ride-hail and delivery giant quietly launched Shop and Pay last year, a feature that lets delivery workers opt into receiving trips to do grocery or other retail shopping for customers before dropping off orders to the customer’s door. Basically, it’s Uber’s attempt to follow the Instacart model, which is working well for the incumbent grocery delivery company. Instacart reported a surge in sales and profits in the fourth quarter of 2022, buoyed by the growing consumer trend of buying groceries online rather than in-store.
Since launching six months ago, Uber says nearly 200,000 couriers are actively doing shopping trips each month in the U.S. For reference, over 600,000 people work for Instacart as shoppers, according to usage data from Business of Apps.
Uber sees a huge opportunity to scale that number up and beef out its grocery delivery pillar — just one part of the company’s plan to cross-sell customers across the platform, from food delivery to grocery delivery, grocery to alcohol, alcohol to experiences, experiences to rides.
A crucial factor in this plan is ensuring drivers, or “shoppers” in this case, don’t absolutely hate the job — hence the app updates.
“Shoppers are a key ingredient to the success of Uber’s grocery ambitions, and we’re making great progress — but have a ways to go,” said Meghan Casserly, Uber’s head of communications for delivery. “…but framed against the more than 5.4 million drivers on the Uber platform worldwide, you can see the possibility for converting even a fraction of them to add shopping trips to the mix.”
Finding ways to make the experience of shopping for a customer as easy as possible is well within Uber’s interest to increasing usage of the offering. Shoppers not only have to deliver the orders, but they have to go into the store, ask customers questions, pay for orders and make decisions on what to do if there’s no more ginger lemon kombucha.
The first update gives shoppers a solution to out of stock items. Uber said this was consistently the No. 1 point of dissatisfaction in surveys, with as many as one in five grocery orders including at least one out of stock item. Figuring out a potential replacement is not only an annoying addition to a shopper’s mental load, but it can also lead to shoppers wasting time picking out a substitution. That’s a problem because shoppers aren’t paid based on how much time the gig takes — they accept the rate Uber gives them when they accept the gig, so time is of the essence.