Instacart’s Canadian GM on Building an Ecommerce Platform

Mar 15, 2021
4 minute read

Andy Anthony, General Manager of Instacart Canada, a digital-first, on-demand delivery service that brings groceries straight to your house. Instacart was recently valued at $4.2 billion USD. We spoke to him about building a successful ecommerce platform.

  • NameAndy Anthony
  • Position: General Manager, Canada
  • CompanyInstacart
  • Team: 420 globally with 70 in Toronto
  • Launch: 2012 — launched in Canada 2017

I think Canadians are a little surprised with just how consistently fast our service delivers and, as the first service of its kind in Canada, it’s been awesome to really wow our customers.

In your own words, what is Instacart?

Instacart is an online service that delivers groceries and other essentials straight to your door in as little as an hour! We save you time from running back and forth to the grocery store, lining up, finding products, etc. In short, Instacart puts time back in your day.

Neat! How has it been launching in Canada?

Really busy! We launched in December and were fortunate to have partnered with Loblaw before our official launch date, so there was already buzz and excitement in the market. Demand was through the roof and we found that Canadians were hungry for same-day grocery delivery. We’ve now launched across Ontario and BC, with additional expansions planned throughout 2018.

We are a hungry bunch. Are Canadians different from our American friends?

The US is a couple of years ahead of Canada in ecommerce adoption and there are more services in the US, like Instacart, that deliver products to customers’ doorsteps as fast as we do. Frankly, I think Canadians are a little surprised with just how consistently fast our service delivers and, as the first service of its kind in Canada, it’s been awesome to really wow our customers.

How do you wow customers, exactly?

Like any service, experience and quality are critical. I regularly turn on my Instashopper app and deliver a bunch of orders myself to ensure that I’m connected to the experiences of our shoppers and customers, which builds empathy to help inform decision-making.

Very cool! What’s it like to shop for Instacart?

Surprisingly easy and fun! I remember my first delivery.

It was a cold, December morning when I received a 12-item order from Loblaws on my Instashopper app. I was a bit intimidated at first because, like most people, I’m not used to shopping for someone else. The app made it surprisingly simple to navigate to and from the store, select the correct items, communicate with customers if an item is out of stock, and also provided helpful tips and tricks to ensure high quality fulfillment. To be honest, I didn’t know how to pick a perfect melon until I had to do it for a customer.

Speed is important but so is cost. Is it expensive?

Our delivery fee is $3.99 for orders of $35 or more. Customers can save over time by subscribing to Instacart Express for $99 a year. Express gets you unlimited, same day delivery for a full year, so it’s a great investment for some customers.

Speaking from my own experience, I have two children who seem to go through berries, apples, cheese, eggs, and milk as quickly as I can get them on the shelves, so the service really saves me a lot of time and money.

What is the most important thing that you learned since launch?

It brought to light that grocery shopping is deeply personal for people. A certain item on your shopping list, however small or seemingly unimportant, may be a key ingredient in a recipe you’re preparing that evening, or it may be your child’s favourite snack. We take every item in the shopping cart very seriously because we know that people depend on us.

Keep customers happy — makes sense. What else?

Building a marketplace is an exciting challenge. For Instacart, it’s making sure we strike the right balance of customers and shoppers. Getting groceries to customers in lightning time is super important, but so is ensuring that shoppers love the experience.

You talk like a veteran. You must have been in groceries your whole life.

I certainly do a lot of grocery shopping but I actually began my career as a litigation lawyer.

Oh! What’s the story there?

As a lawyer, I got lots of exposure and dealt with many dynamic issues, but felt like I did not have a great deal of ownership over my work, or the ability to build something meaningful. Trial work is, by its nature, contentious and adversarial. I wanted to collaboratively work in teams to solve big, meaningful problems for people.

This motivated me to join Hired, an online opportunity marketplace that takes the pain out of finding a job by empowering job seekers. I led a team of very talented salespeople in Canada and the Central US.

Then, when I heard that Instacart would be expanding into Canada I became immediately excited about pursuing this new and exciting challenge.

Outside of work, what do you do for fun? What’s not on your LinkedIn profile?

Hah! I’m a family man. My family is my biggest interest, hobby and passion. A few years ago I’d probably have said tennis, but now I’ve put my game on hold and hope to pick it back up when my kids are old enough to hit with their dad.

Very cute. I’ll let you get back to building a grocery empire but before we close this off, answer these questions quickly. GO!

  • Favourite weekend hangoutTe Aro (983 Queen Street East)
  • Favourite startup: Instacart! But I’m also a huge fan of Slack and am the #1 unofficial salesperson for Sonos
  • Favourite subscription