As a resident of San Francisco, I have access to pretty much every on-demand delivery service on the market.
And I don’t use any of them.
But with the recent news that Google’s shopping service has started offering fresh fruit and veggies, I decided to try out the three main grocery delivery options — Google’s Express, Amazon’s Prime Fresh, and Instacart — to see the pros and cons of each and whether they could convince me to cut a weekly shopping trip out of my schedule.
Here’s what I learned, and what you need to know about each one:
Each of these services work in different parts of the country, though all three work in San Francisco. You can try out Instacart if you live in any of these 18 metropolitan areas:
Whereas Amazon Fresh is only available in select zip codes in Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and northern and southern California.
As for Google Express, you can get same-day delivery in California's Bay Area, Manhattan Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC. It also provides overnight delivery in Northern California, Southern California, and parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky.
Instacart's store availability depends on where you live. The site tells you which ones offer the same prices as you'd get if you went into the store. It was nice to have some local variety like San Francisco staples Bi-Rite and Rainbow Grocery. To test out the service, I shopped Mollie Stone's, a Bay Area chain.
On Google Express, all prices are the same as in-store, no matter what. There's also more store diversity -- beyond groceries, you can also use Google Express to browse shops like Bed, Bath & Beyond. That being said, if you *do* just want groceries, the selection isn't as big, at least in my area. I decided to try Whole Foods with Google.
On Amazon, you have the freedom of selecting from tons of products regardless of what stores they come from. That's a huge benefit of the service. Unless you have a certain store you're obsessed with (calling all Whole Foods fanatics), it's nice not to have to limit yourself to a specific retailer.
Overall, I liked the Instacart experience. The biggest differentiating feature was that it highlighted all the products that I could get at a discount.
Instacart also makes search pretty seamless, with drop-down menus that helped you quickly and easily hone in on specific food categories.
And it was also very easy to check how much more money I had to spend to hit the delivery minimum without leaving the shopping experience.
Comparatively, the food selection experience on Google felt pretty rough. There weren't drop-down menus, so the process of finding what I wanted moved slower. For example, to get from the main Whole Foods page to the cheese category, it took four separate clicks and pages, versus one on Instacart.
And the only way to see how much I had to add to my order was to visit my cart page, check my total, and then 'keep shopping.' Not a great user experience.
I appreciated Prime Fresh for how wide the selection was. Without thinking about where each item was coming from, I could fill my cart with groceries and random other things I might want.
Overall, the UX was pretty equivalent with Instacart's, though with an admittedly less sleek design. Amazon allows distracting ads, like that one for Naked juice.
But one downside with Amazon is that you can't check out without hitting the $50 order minimum. Instacart has custom delivery minimums for each store -- Mollie Stone's was only $10. Google just tacked on a $3 delivery fee for a small basket (under $35 at Whole Foods).
Overall, the experience of trying out Amazon Prime would have impressed me the most, if it weren't for the delivery snafu.
When it came time to check out, Instacart definitely had the most flexible delivery. (Note, the Instacart delivery fee was waived because it was my first time using the service).
All of my orders came within their time brackets. For each one, a courier rang my bell, but I only had to sign for Amazon and Google's deliveries certifying that I had received my order. The delivery people for Instacart and Express were in plainclothes, while the Prime Fresh guy wore a special Amazon vest.
That last one look a bit off? That's because Amazon forgot half my order! In the end, the company repaid me for the missing goods, so I only spent $31.89 on what's shown in the picture. But it would have been a real bummer if I was planning to cook dinner that night with my groceries, since Amazon didn't even offer to deliver the rest of the order that evening.
Short answer: For me, no.
I will probably never reguarly use any of these services, because I only cook for myself and live a 15 minute walk from a Safeway. I usually spend about $50 on shopping every two weeks. The delivery fee or subscription price isn't worth it, since I don't hate going to the store or anything.
I think that Instacart is the best option for anyone that wants to order groceries sporadically.
If you don't want to sign up for the $149 yearly Instacart Plus membership, the $5.99 delivery fee per order isn't outrageous. My order seemed needlessly expensive in this case since I bought so few items, but the fee is a good deal if you stock up (especially if you ordered a bunch of heavy things you wouldn't want to cover from the store).
I would recommend Instacart over Google because the one-off delivery fee is only one dollar more and Instacart's user experience is much better.
I would suggest Amazon Prime Fresh, even though they screwed up my order.
Personally, I felt like if I was going to pay to order groceries online, there should be something special about the experience, other than just convenience. Since there is a very wide selection of goods and you're not limited to shopping one store at a time, I would say that Amazon is hte best option for anyone who wants a lot of groceries regularly.
Let's say you don't care about shopping at only one store, though. After all, if you go shopping IRL you do usually only go to one shop per trip.
At $149 for a yearly membership, Instacart's offering is cheaper than Amazon's $299 yearly subscription. Even if you're already a Prime member and would only have to pay $200 for Fresh, Instacart is still a better price.
So, if you want to do all Whole Foods all the time or support a specific local store, Instacart is your best bet.