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Service options

In Instacart Connect, service options are time slots. The time slots might be immediate or scheduled.

  • Immediate time slots are calculated from the time the order is created. For example, if the time slot is within 2 hours and an order is created at 9:35am, the start time is 9:35am and the end time is 11:35am.
  • Scheduled time slots have start and end timestamps that occur after the order is created. The time slots are two hour blocks that begin on the hour, such as 2pm–4pm, 3pm–5pm, and 4pm–6pm. Schedule time slots can be booked for the same day that the order is created or a future day, such as today between 2pm and 4pm or Friday between 9am and 11am.
note

Instacart is continually innovating to provide the best service to customers and respond to dynamic market conditions. As we learn more and conditions evolve, Instacart might add new service option types. Instacart will provide notice to customers of these changes as soon as feasible. Retailer partners are under no obligation to implement new service option types, but we strongly recommend doing so to take advantage of improvements we make. If a service option will no longer be offered, Instacart will provide at least 180 days of notice. Exceptions may be made in the event of exigent circumstances.

Availability#

Time slot availability is managed by the Instacart fulfillment engine. All time slots are available on a first come, first served basis, whether the request comes from Instacart Connect or from Instacart Marketplace. When you request a list of available time slots, the engine checks the availability for the given location. Some time slots might have restrictions, such as for alcohol delivery or heavy items. The request returns an array of available time slots that you can display to your customers.

For delivery and pickup, to get the most accurate results, include the list of cart items when you request the list of time slots. For last mile delivery, send the number of items.

Reservations and bookings#

At checkout, your site can reserve a time slot while a customer goes through the checkout process. A reservation holds a time slot for 10 minutes, after which the reservation expires. A Connect user account can have only one time slot reserved at a time.

To book the time slot, create the order. As a best practice, reserve time slots near the end of the checkout process to improve the chances that the reservation is still active when you create the order. If the reservation expires, Instacart Connect still attempts to book the time slot. If the time slot has no capacity, your site needs to prompt the customer to select another time slot.

Preview time slots#

For delivery and pickup, you can choose to display time slots to customers before they log in or start shopping. For example, your customers might want to know that there is availability before starting their journey.

There are a few risks with this approach.

  • The list might contain time slots that are ultimately not available due to restrictions. Because you can't send cart items with the request, the fulfillment engine can't take restrictions into account when finding available time slots.
  • The time slot might no longer have capacity by the time the customer checks out. The previewed time slots can’t be reserved until checkout. If you permit a customer to select a time slot, you can save a selection locally and then attempt to reserve it at checkout. However, if the customer takes a long time to shop, the time slot might no longer have capacity when the customer begins the checkout process.

If you implement this option, a best practice is to allow customers to select only future day time slots. Same-day time slots fill up quickly, while future day time slots are more likely to be available when the customer is done shopping. Whatever you choose to do, ensure that you set the customers' expectations to avoid frustration at checkout.

Related topics#

Delivery or pickup service options

Last mile delivery service options

Preview service options