Couriers Who Shop: Building for Grocery Delivery on Uber EatsWritten by
When we launched Uber Eats in 2015, we set out to connect the world’s restaurants and delivery people to bring hot pizzas and cold sushi to the doorsteps of hungry people everywhere. In 2020, when COVID kept us home, delivery became more important than ever, and for Uber Eats that meant expanding our relationships with different kinds of merchants, changing our app so it was easier to ‘get anything’* and rethinking the experience top-to-bottom.
To do this, we introduced “Shop and Pay,” a new earning opportunity on the Uber Driver app in the US that lets delivery persons opt-into receiving trips to go into retailers—primarily grocery stores—and to shop and check out for orders before delivering them to their customers’ doorsteps as usual.
As you can imagine, this new opportunity to do more for customers was a big change for delivery people who opted in. Rather than doing just one thing—picking up and dropping off fully prepared orders—Shop and Pay offered a new set of interactions. Shopping and checking out requires more: asking questions of customers, paying for orders, and knowing what to do when the store runs out of oat milk.
That meant designing a very different in-app experience. We anticipated many of the top issues that couriers would face, and set out to address them from day one: making sure couriers have the options to use Uber-issued cards for payment or to use their own funds and be reimbursed, can scan barcodes to find the right items, and chat with customers directly in the app.
Today, nearly 200,000 US couriers are regularly doing shopping trips each month, and we’re rolling out a new set of updates based on feedback we’ve heard from people who’ve told us both their biggest challenges and their best opportunities.
Out of stock items
Without fail, the shopping issue we hear most from couriers about is out of stock items—it is consistently the #1 point of dissatisfaction in surveys. In fact, as many as one in five grocery orders include at least one out-of-stock item, so it happens frequently! What should they do if they can’t find the exact product their customer is looking for? How can they make sure they’re replacing it with the best possible substitution—without wasting a ton of precious time?
Over the past few months, we’ve completely redesigned the experience to make handling out of stock items easier. Today, when shoppers indicate they can’t find the originally requested item in-store, their app will show them a list of suggested substitutions that are based on similar brands and items so there’s no need for guesswork. They can then send that suggestion to their customer directly in the app for review so they can be confident that they are getting what the customer wants—and move right along.
In testing, shoppers have let us know that the new experience is a win: among other things it reduces their in-store time considerably—a win for earners and for their hungry customers at home.
“It was great to have replacement options right when I pressed ‘unavailable’ for the item,” said one. “The previous way of being required to take a picture of nearby items just wasn’t as useful”
Making payments digital
When opting into Shop and Pay trips, Uber Eats couriers receive a physical credit card that is pre-authorized to cover the costs of the orders they shop for. But the time it can take for the cards to arrive in the mail can mean couriers are missing out on valuable earning opportunities. They’ve also shared that the physical card is easy to forget, to lose, or—occasionally—just doesn’t work.
Now, across the US, when earners opt-into shopping trips they can quickly and reliably activate a digital card on their phones, using Apple or Google Pay, to start using a Plus Card on shopping trips in a matter of minutes, not days. And it’s not just about speed: since earning with Uber is all about flexibility, digital payment means less planning ahead is required. Don’t have your physical Plus card on you? No problem.
In a recent survey, 92% of shoppers told us digital payments were easy to activate, and 88% said it was easy to check out—we’ll keep working to make it even smoother.
The more information couriers have up-front, the more control they have in their earning experience—and choosing the jobs that are right for them in the Uber app.
This month we’re bringing updates to the offer card that will give shoppers more information upfront so they can know what’s in store (pun intended!) with every order. For starters, shoppers will be able to see the number of unique items in the order, rather than just the total number of items (understandable shoppers want to know whether it’s one gallon of milk, or five—especially for planning what will fit in their vehicle or how heavy a shop might be).
And soon the offer card will also give shoppers helpful information about the order such as whether it contains a large, heavy or fragile item. We’ve heard from shoppers that this information is critical to avoid in-store surprises – for example, for some shoppers who might have trouble lifting heavy objects, or who don’t have space in their vehicle for a large item that day.
We’re thrilled that couriers who use Uber Eats are increasingly finding grocery shopping to be a reliable and positive addition to their earning opportunities. With 100,000 grocery and new vertical storefronts across the world, our ambitions are big, and we’re committed to helping consumers find more of what they’re looking for on the app. Building a strong experience for shoppers—guided by their feedback—will be critical to our success, and we’ll keep it a top priority.
*Not literally anything. Item availability varies by market.