Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share
15 January 2020
Instacart and table stakes: The brand will need more
We’ve entered the time of the needy shopper. Or, on the flip-side, the time-hungry consumer. People exist in both of these domains, which is why Instacart fills a niche with many consumers.
The present is a funny time. We have delivery services for everything. Food delivery services alone sport a coterie of brands reinventing the restaurant industry (Uber Eats, Beyond Menu, Door Dash, etc.)
We have cookie delivery services (Insomnia Cookies) and snack delivery (goPuff), too. Technology has taught us that we have the right to be served on our own terms. It’s one of the reasons why streaming TV has become a shattering earthquake in the TV industry.
But of all the segments, grocery delivery provides an interesting and highly competitive atmosphere. My wife and I have tried them all, from Walmart to Amazon. Yet, we were not entirely satisfied until we opted for Instacart.
Inevitably, something goes wrong with Walmart’s grocery delivery. Items are missing, delivery comes at the wrong time. It’s always something. As an option, the Instacart brand always felt like a jack of all trades master of none kind of thing. Its hook is speed, a table stake in this industry.
“Instacart is pretty cool, for now. But establishing new table stakes just means you’re ripe for the picking. (Pun intended.)”
Table stakes will only get Instacart so far
Table stakes are what you need to even play in the market. They are crucial, but never mistake them with the reasons why consumers choose. They select based on brands that hit your emotional trigger. Choosing Walmart’s delivery service, for instance, feels like a smart bet because you know the prices would be low and the huge corporation would get the basics right.
But lately, Instacart has been pinpointing another feature. Choice. With Walmart, you’re tied into Walmart merchandise. With Amazon, you’re tied into Whole Foods. Instacart is the grocery relative to Door Dash or GrubHub. It delivers from Lowe’s, Aldi, Food Lion, Earth Fare, Publix and others.
It also follows a Netflix-like model in which you simply pay a $10 subscription fee.
Of course, the business model of Instacart (choice, speed, subscription fee) is sure to be copied. It holds first-mover advantage which means it must take control of the category by being more meaningful as a brand than any interloper. The world is filled with first-mover brands that failed to build an emotional brand that remained sticky with consumers, and were soon being replaced by fast followers that reached audiences with emotion.
Instacart is pretty cool, for now. But establishing new table stakes just means you’re ripe for the picking. (Pun intended.)
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