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Q&A: Instacart’s Co-Founder, Brandon Leonardo

Instacart uses PagerDuty to scale their business while delivering exceptional customer experience

Instacart is turning the burdensome grocery shopping experience into an incredible opportunity. Grocers have been struggling to lure millennials and working professionals into their stores, and the amount spent on buying groceries has been declining in the past years. Instacart is one of the standout companies in the market addressing those challenges and pioneering a new grocery shopping experience business model.

By 2020, Gartner predicts that 100 million consumers1 will shop in immersive shopping experiences that include meeting the changing needs of the consumer. Designing a business model that supports this experience requires collaboration, communication, and a website and/or app experience that can capture, retain and grow customers.

Instacart has made strides to implement an IT infrastructure that supports the numerous touch points in a customer’s journey — from placing an order through their mobile app to having the order processed and having the groceries delivered – the customer experience is complex. The need for a seamless experience is a compelling mindset for savvy companies like Instacart and will ultimately be a key factor that sets them further apart.

We spent some time with our customer, Brandon Leonardo, co-founder of Instacart. We talked about the sharing economy and how Instacart is tackling some of the more progressive challenges and his leadership role in ensuring the company’s success as the business scales in the sharing economy.

You’ve been very successful in building Instacart. What has been the key to your success to build an infrastructure with tremendous growth?

There are three things that have helped us build our infrastructure through rapid growth.

First, experience. A little experience goes a long way here. We brought on some people with experience scaling systems. They were able to provide guidance and help others find the right solutions for existing systems, as well as change how we build new systems to scale.

Second, our strong values of ownership and solving for the customer. We wanted to build an infrastructure where engineers would be the owners of as much of the stack as possible. We believe this increases speed, improves reliability and minimizes conflict. Our SRE team is lean, but has done an amazing job building a platform for engineers to build product & launch with minimal fuss.

Finally, and more tactically, separation of concerns & workloads. Separating the parts of the site that need to be bulletproof, like customer ordering flow or signup flow, makes it much easier to ensure those pieces stay up and running.

Instacart delivers a great digital experience. Can you elaborate on the work behind the scenes to make it a seamless experience for customers?

One of the things I’ve always loved about Instacart is that there’s both a digital and real world interaction with our product. There is a lot that goes into making sure every customer has a great, seamless experience.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the teams working on our product:

  • Catalog Ops & Engineering work together tirelessly to make sure our product information is correct and comprehensive, so customers can see beautiful images and any other available information about the product.
  • Consumer and Search teams take that product data and make sure that customers can find what they’re looking for and get the delivery they want.
  • Logistics Ops & Engineering ensures that Shoppers are available when customers want to order, and that their orders get to them on time.
  • Field Ops is hiring and training Shoppers, looking for ways to make us more efficient, as well as doing local customer marketing.
  • Shopper App and Management teams are responsible for making sure shoppers can manage their schedules, and find what customers are ordering.

There are many more people even beyond that all working to make sure that a customer’s order is fulfilled. In a lot of ways it’s like we’re building multiple companies at the same time and making them all work together seamlessly. If we do our job correctly, our customers never even realize there’s all this complexity under the hood and it just seems like magic. That’s what we aim for.

What piece of advice would you give to beginning entrepreneurs as they attempt to scale their business?

If there’s one thing I can say I learned through Instacart, it’s this: Prioritize ruthlessly. There will always be more work than you can possibly do. There will always be more things pulling at your attention than you can possibly respond to. Most of these things don’t actually matter in the long run. Or they matter, but only if you’re wildly successful and only in a year or more. Learn to figure out what the one thing that matters is, and focus only on that thing.

Watch Now: Instacart Uses PagerDuty to Scale Customer Experience In The Sharing Economy

Learn more about how you can scale your business while delivering exceptional customer experiences with the help of PagerDuty.

1. Forbes, Gartner’s Top 10 Predictions For IT Organizations In 2017 And Beyond, October 19, 2016

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