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Service options

In Instacart Connect, service options are time slots. Time slots might start from the time the order is created or they can be scheduled for a future start time. The time slot includes the time for the order to be batched, assigned, shopped, and received by the customer.

For more flexibility with delivery orders, when you request a list of available time slots, you can send Instacart your desired delivery windows. Instacart uses your desired delivery windows to determine the availability of time slots that you can display to your customers. For more information, see Desired windows.

Service option policy

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 options. Instacart provides notice to customers of these changes as soon as feasible. Retailer partners are under no obligation to implement new service options, but we strongly recommend doing so to take advantage of improvements we make. If a service option will no longer be offered, Instacart provides at least 180 days of notice. Exceptions may be made in the event of exigent circumstances.

Types of service options

The following table describes the available service options.

Service optionDescriptionExamples
Priority ETAA priority estimated time of arrival (ETA) falls within 45 minutes to 5 hours of when the order was created, but is usually much faster than the maximum time. The priority ETA time slot is always at least 30 minutes earlier than the standard ETA time slot.An order created at 9:35am might have a priority ETA as early as By 10:20am.
Standard ETAA standard estimated time of arrival falls within 2 to 5 hours of when the order was created.An order created at 9:35am might have an ETA of By 12:15pm.
ImmediateCustomers can select Within 2 hours or Within 5 hours. Immediate time slots are calculated from the time the order is created.An order created at 9:35am for delivery Within 5 hours has an end time of 2:35pm.
ScheduledCustomers can select a time slot for either the same day or a future day. In general, this service option offers two-hour time slots that begin on the hour and overlap with one another. Under some circumstances, such as holidays and severe weather, Instacart may change the duration and availability of time slots to ensure the best customer experience.An order created at 9:35am might have available time slots such as Today 3pm-5pm, Today 4pm-6pm, or Friday 9am-11am.

ETA options replace immediate options

ETA options replace the immediate options. The ETA for delivery gives customers more flexibility to fit their food shopping delivery into busy family and work schedules. If you enable the ETA options, the immediate options are turned off.

For the ETA options, the delivery window start time is the time the order is created. The end time is the estimated time of arrival. The estimated time is calculated based on a variety of factors, such as distance, order size, and shopper availability. Customers can expect to receive their order before or by the estimated time of arrival.

The priority and standard ETA service options are currently available for the delivery and last mile delivery workflows. The standard ETA option must be enabled. You can choose to offer priority ETAs on top of standard ETAs for an extra charge. To enable the ETA options, contact your Instacart Connect representative.

Service areas for delivery

Service areas are the addresses that can receive delivery from a store location within a given time period. Instacart uses the store location, the customer address, and other factors to determine if the customer address falls within the service area for the store. This approach results in more serviceable addresses than using only postal codes.

Service areas have the following types:

  • Smart service areas include the addresses that can receive delivery from a store in up to 30 minutes.
  • Long distance delivery areas include addresses that can receive delivery from a store in 30 to 60 minutes. Long distance delivery must be enabled by your Instacart Connect representative.

By offering long distance delivery, your stores have the opportunity to attract new customers in both densely populated centers and rural areas. The option incurs an extra charge to cover increased costs for delivery. After the option is enabled, you can choose which stores offer long distance delivery.

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 the ETA service options, the time slots are available for a limited time:

  • Priority ETA is valid for 3 minutes
  • Standard ETA is valid for 5 minutes

Your site must reserve the time slot within valid time period or time slot expires. If the time slot expires, retrieve the list of time slots again to get new ETA options.

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 Connect user account can have only one time slot reserved at a time. The reserved time slot is held for a limited time and then booked when you create the order.

The duration of the reservation depends on the service option selected:

  • Priority ETA time slots are held for 7 minutes
  • All other time slots are held for 10 minutes

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

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.
  • ETA time slots are a guesstimate because the ETA is calculated based on the postal code only. The actual ETA can be selected at checkout.

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.

Service options cart

Service options preview