Grocery Delivery App Development like Instacart

In 2024, a grocery delivery app development project remains a lucrative business opportunity. The reason is simple: with global digitalization, online shopping has become a standard practice for all customer segments, including older adults. With a convenient and user-friendly app, grocery shopping is no longer a chore but a simple task that can be completed within minutes.

According to data from Statista, 58 percent of millennial consumers in the UK would buy grocery products mostly via e-commerce. At the same time, by 2025, the average annual spend per online grocery customer in the US will increase to $1,524.84 from $856.47 in 2021.

In this article, we share development tips on how to build an app like Instacart that your customers will love. We also go into Mind Studios’ own experience of building food delivery platforms, sharing a story of developing James Butler, a platform for the Danes that reached the assigned KPIs three months after the soft launch.

Is a grocery delivery app profitable?

As the name suggests, grocery delivery apps let customers order groceries (or other products) to be delivered to their doorstep. The food delivery market already has tons of platforms to offer. So, why can a grocery delivery app development project be profitable? Here are three reasons.

Investing in a rapidly growing industry

The demand for grocery delivery services continues to grow. Based on data from Statista, the grocery delivery market worldwide is expected to reach $1,271.00 billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.74% between 2024 and 2028.

Moreover, according to The Business Research Company’s report on the online food delivery market, the growth of this market is closely tied to the increase in the working population, especially young workers in metropolitan cities. With more and more people working in metropolitan areas, the rise of disposable income, and the accessibility of the internet, the demand for food delivery services will continue to grow steadily.

Estimated online food delivery market size worldwide from 2022 to 2027

Improving the grocery shopping experience

Ordering food online and getting it delivered is obviously faster than actually going to the supermarket. On the app, you are not wasting time searching for the right products, waiting in lines, etc. And avoiding the hassle is a game changer for those who work full-time shifts. Besides, often customers in physical grocery stores can only pay with a credit or a debit card, while apps usually offer multiple payment options, like RFID cards and EMI options.

Basically, it all comes down to the fact that online grocery shopping makes life a little easier for customers, and that’s why they will continue choosing it over physical stores.

Building stronger connections with your customers

If you’ve decided to build a grocery delivery app like Instacart, you are most likely either a grocery store owner, a chain of stores owner, or an entrepreneur who wants to partner with other stores. In any case, if you want to build a loyal customer base, we would advise you to choose an application for your services because of:

  • The opportunity to communicate with your customers and personalize their experience with your service
  • The ability to analyze customers’ behavior and make relevant recommendations for them by collecting and analyzing users’ previous orders
  • The tools it provides to inspect every single step of a customer’s journey, like seasonal purchasing habits, packaging preferences, reasons for rejecting particular products

Based on all this, you can develop a strategy to connect with your customers and up your profits.

Personalized customer experience

For instance, if the user often purchases one particular kind of product, let them know when it’s on sale with a push notification, or suggest alternatives if it’s out of stock. Or, let’s say, you offer biodegradable packaging. Why not let those customers who often order sustainable products know more about it?

Moreover, you can develop a rewards system within the app, which may include:

  • cashback
  • loyalty programs
  • free delivery coupons
  • seasonal and daily deals
  • “soon to expire” sales.

Such simple strategic moves for grocery ordering app development will help you create a strong emotional connection with the consumers and increase their loyalty.

You may also like the medicine delivery app development guide.

Tips before grocery delivery app development

Prior to the design and development stages, it’s vital to determine a business model for your on-demand delivery service. Future features of the app and its whole structure will depend on this decision. Picking the right model right away means you won’t have to make any significant changes to the app mid-process and therefore, help you avoid spending tons of money on those adjustments.

There are two on-demand delivery business models for a grocery shop app:

  1. The delivery service has its own store with products they deliver
  2. The delivery service partners with a number of different stores and makes deliveries for them

Walmart has its own app, for example, and the company has a delivery service as well, though it isn’t available everywhere.

Other stores, like Costco, partner with services like Instacart to make deliveries for them. By partnering with a store, you’ll get access to its inventory and price data and can add the store’s products to your app. There are several ways to implement this tech-wise.

You can, of course, forego the whole partnership thing and just deliver products on-demand without specifying which store they come from. Instacart started this way. However, it’s infinitely more difficult; you’ll have to provide your own product photos, for starters. Besides, some customers prefer specific stores and would like their products delivered from there and nowhere else.

Choose the right type of grocery shopping app

The kind of grocery application you choose to develop directly depends on the role you are going to take on in online grocery shopping. Do you want to just be a platform that connects users with the stores? Or are you running a grocery store and looking for a way to up your game?

This table with five main types of grocery apps will help you figure out which one suits you most.

Grocery app type Description Suitable for
Aggregator app The app simply lists nearby grocery stores and allows users to select one of them for grocery shopping. The deliveries are carried out by the selected store, not the app managers. Basically, it just connects the customer and the grocery store App owners who do not want to manage deliveries themselves and simply provide a platform for ordering groceries from different stores
Marketplace app The model is similar to that of an aggregator app, but here the marketplace provides a delivery team to carry out the orders App owners who deliver orders from the stores they partner up with
Single store app The owner of a physical store gets a grocery mobile app built for their own store and manages it Owners of grocery stores
Grocery chain app Similarly to single store app model, here, the owners of a grocery chain get an app developed to carry out deliveries from their multiple stores Owners of grocery stores chains
Personalized grocery app Created specifically to let customers effectively plan their grocery shopping and adjust this experience to their needs. For instance, they can create lists, reorder, share grocery details with other users, order fridge-stocking delivery services, and so on. Basically, it’s all about making the user experience as smooth as possible Both owners of grocery stores and entrepreneurs who partner up with those stores and perform deliveries

Grocery mobile app features to include in your MVP

Grocery mobile app features to include in your MVP

An online delivery service usually involves two apps — an app for customers and a separate local delivery app for those making deliveries. When a customer places an order in their app and pays for it, a delivery worker who’s in the vicinity sees that order on the delivery app, accepts the order, and completes it, delivering the goods to the customer.

Since grocery delivery apps like Instacart aren’t particularly innovative in general, spending a fortune to launch a complete version without proper research and preparation would be a waste. Before diving into grocery delivery application development, you and your partnering tech company should evaluate your idea and find a unique value proposition. Next comes an MVP, or minimum viable product.

The minimum viable product (MVP) is a simplified but functioning version of the app. It’s sometimes built for the first release as a cheap and quick way to gather feedback from a limited number of users and improve the app accordingly. While making an MVP, developers focus on core functional features, without yet paying attention to additional features and visual aspects of the app.

Here is a list of essential features for an MVP version of an on-demand grocery app development project:

Customer app

Delivery app

Admin panel

  • User profile
  • List of stores
  • Menus/items in stock
  • Cart/order page
  • Payment gateway
  • Order status
  • Order history
  • Notifications
  • Profile
  • Delivery request notification
  • Accept or reject delivery request
  • In-app chat and/or in-app calls
  • List of orders (showing items and delivery addresses)
  • Map for navigation
  • Dashboard with daily, weekly, or monthly earnings
  • Payment transferring to e-wallets or credit cards
  • Customer data
  • List of stores
  • Order management
  • Menus/items in stock
  • Revenue
  • Real-Time Analytics

Naturally, for the customer and delivery apps to function properly, they’ll need to communicate in real-time so that deliveries don’t take too long. The selling point of any grocery shopping app is that the service will deliver the order on time. To ensure app-to-app communication, you’ll need WebSocket APIs on your backend.

Read more: How to Prioritize Features for Your Mobile App MVP

At Mind Studios, we prefer the concept of a minimum lovable product (MLP) to an MVP. Developing an MLP means that, in addition to the bare necessities, your app will also have a signature feature that makes it stand out from the crowd of similar on-demand grocery delivery apps. Here are a few suggestions as to what these features might be:

  • Social connectivity. Allow your customers to sign up with social networks like Facebook or automatically sign up with their email without having to go through a registration process. This will make signup faster and easier for your customers, making them more willing to interact with your app and minimizing bounce rates.
  • Smart shopping lists. With this feature, the app can automatically generate shopping lists based on past purchases, current needs, upcoming events, etc., streamlining the planning process.
  • Alternatives feature. With an alternatives field, customers could set a possible substitute if an item is unavailable. This will enhance the user experience since there will be fewer cases of partially completed orders.
  • Chatbot. It could show your customers (and delivery workers) valuable information about the products and stores, provide popular recipes with a selected item, etc. Moreover, the chatbot can be enhanced with AI which will help pick highly relevant content for the users.
  • Voice recognition. This will be highly appreciated by your busy customers, enabling them to place orders on the go without having to stop and type in a product name or browse a store’s inventory.
  • Phone and/or chat support. This may be it technical support for app operations or the possibility to contact a delivery person to make last-minute changes to an order. Also, make sure the consumers get a quick and helpful response in case there’s anything wrong with the delivery service or the products they ordered.
  • Reordering. An option to make the same purchases is another useful feature for busy, working customers. This way, they can simply make a grocery shopping list once and then repurchase it over and over again.
  • Customer loyalty programs. Coupons and bonuses, seasonal or “soon to expire” sales, free delivery promo codes, and gifts — basically, this includes any deals that will encourage your customers to come back to your app.
  • Green packaging options. For eco-conscious shoppers, the opportunity to choose sustainable and environmentally conscious delivery packaging can be a game-changer.
  • GPS-tracking. This feature will be useful to both customers, who want real-time updates on the status of their order, and delivery personnel, who need help in locating routes.

Any additional features will naturally affect the cost of building an online grocery mobile app, but they can also become a unique advantage that will help your service get noticed. If you’re interested in what other features to enhance your app with, check out our article on mobile app development trends.

How to create a grocery delivery app: Key steps and tips

What is an on-demand grocery delivery app

So, you have an idea of what features your app should include. But how do you implement them? Let’s go over the essential steps of creating a grocery delivery app that meets the evolving demands of today's consumers.

Step 1. Discovery phase

The aim of the discovery phase is to lay the foundation for a successful on-demand grocery app development process. It ensures a clear understanding of the project's objectives and potential challenges.

During this phase, stakeholders collaborate to identify the target audience, analyze competitors, and establish key features and functionalities. The core activities in the discovery phase include:

  • conducting market research
  • creating user personas
  • outlining user journeys
  • defining technical requirements
  • establishing a project roadmap

By delving into these activities, the stakeholders can define the overall direction the app should take to meet both user and business needs.

Step 2. UI/UX design phase and design delivery

This stage can be divided into two parts: UI/UX design and design delivery. During UI/UX design for Android & iOS platforms, the designers work on the visual concept, define the features the app will consist of, and create prototypes — visual mockups of each screen of the app. This covers both the app's visual aspects (UI design) and the user experience (UX design).

Choices the team makes when creating the app design define whether future customers will close the app within a few seconds or make ordering through it part of their routine. Therefore, it’s important to follow the best UI/UX design to up the chances of the app succeeding. For instance, for grocery delivery apps, our specialists recommend prioritizing easy navigation, accentuating the products, encouraging interactions with the app, and paying extra attention to security issues.

Design of a grocery delivery app

Next comes the app design delivery process, which marks the handover of finalized design assets to the development team. This includes high-fidelity mockups, style guides, and specifications. The step requires close collaboration between designers and developers to address any queries related to design elements, interactions, or animations, ensuring a shared understanding of the design intent. The design delivery process ensures a seamless transition from conceptualization to actual implementation.

You can find out more about our approach to developing apps during a free consultation with our business development analysts.

Step 3. Technical development phase

After the design is completed and handed over, it’s time to transform the mockups into code and build a grocery app. Here, our developers have compiled a table of the tech stack that will be suitable for an online grocery delivery app.

Technology stack for a grocery delivery app

During the on-demand grocery delivery app development stage, the team focuses on the actual implementation of the application for the respective platforms, ensuring compatibility and optimization for iOS and Android devices. Developers use programming languages like Swift for iOS and Kotlin or Java for Android to build a grocery mobile app, integrating the finalized design, features, and functionalities. This stage is crucial as it transforms the conceptualized ideas and designs into a functional, user-friendly mobile application tailored to each platform's specifications.

Another important part is determining how the desired features will be integrated into the app. That is what mobile app architecture is for. Basically, it is a set of structural elements and techniques needed to develop an application. Here, we share the possible grocery delivery app architecture based on James Butler app, one of Mind Studios’ projects.

Grocery delivery mobile app architecture

Step 4. Testing and refining

The final step before the launch is the testing and refining stage, during which the application undergoes rigorous testing to identify and rectify any bugs, errors, or usability issues. This process involves both manual and automated testing to ensure the app functions smoothly across different devices and scenarios. The tech team can also conduct user acceptance testing (UAT) to gather feedback from potential users and make necessary adjustments. The importance of this stage lies in its ability to enhance the app's reliability, performance, and user satisfaction.

If you have any questions on how to make a grocery delivery app based on your specific idea, feel free to reach out.

Grocery app development team structure and cost

If you’re working with an outsourcing development company and plan on going for both Android and iOS platforms, this is the team you’ll need to hire:

  • 1 project manager
  • 1-2 Android developers
  • 1-2 iOS developers
  • 1–2 UI/UX designers
  • 2 QA specialists
  • 1 backend developer

You could skip the project manager if you choose to work with individual freelance grocery mobile app developers. However, we believe that project managers are an important link that holds everything together, and their input into the app’s creation is crucial.

Now that we’ve gone over the features and you know how to create an app like Instacart, let’s try to estimate the grocery app development cost. The exact price for making an app like Instacart will depend on multiple factors, from the complexity of the app to your choice of developers, but we can give a rough figure for the basic features.

With two separate apps to build, each with its own design and feature set, the time required to create a grocery delivery app also depends on the number of people on your team. If you decide to work with a team that we’ve described in the previous section, we estimate that it will take at least 2366 hours of work. So, how much does it cost to create an app like Instacart? We answer this question in the table below.

Development stage Hours Cost, USD
Project management 160 – 200 7,200 – 9,000
Discovery stage and idea validation 120+ 5,400 +
UI/UX design for Android & iOS platforms 130–190 5,850 – 8,550
iOS development 600–800 27,000 – 36,000
Android development 616–800 27,720 – 36,000
Backend development 480+ 21,600 +
Admin panel development 80+ 3,600 +
Testing and improving 180 8,100
Total: 2,366 – 2,850 106,470 – 128,250

With an average price of around $45 per hour, the cost for an on-demand grocery mobile app development will start at $106,470 for both iOS and Android platforms and go up from there depending on the features and technologies used.

Do you have more questions about how to develop an app like Instacart or want a more precise grocery delivery app development cost estimate? Get in touch, and we will answer any of your questions.

Learn more: Navigating Funding: Insights from a Software Development Partner

Grocery delivery app monetization

Monetization models for a grocery delivery app

When you think about how to build a grocery app like Instacart, you inevitably stumble upon the issue of how to make a profit. Developing an app like Instacart is not cheap by any stretch, and you’ll also need to pay the people who make deliveries. Besides, you’ve started a business to make money, right?

If you are a store owner and plan on expanding by launching an app, naturally, you will get profits directly from selling the products. Even more so, an app can save you money in the long run. For instance, let’s say, there is a list of products that haven’t sold out as you expected. You can put them on a “soon to expire” sale and let your customers know about it with a push notification. Overall, a mobile app is a perfect platform to announce special deals, communicate with clients, and therefore, build a loyal customer base.

If, however, your business comes down to just delivery services, there are several monetization options available to the owners of on-demand grocery delivery apps. These include:

Adding a fee for your service to the price of each item

That is, you can set the price of each item a little higher than the actual price in the store. Keep in mind that if you do this you’ll need to clearly inform your users about the elevated prices if you wish to appear honest and transparent. Create a notification that pops up the first time customers place an order or start browsing the catalog. Also, include a reminder in your policy.

Charging a delivery fee

This is the most common monetization model. Your customers are charged for products according to the actual prices in the store and then pay a fee for delivery. Depending on the order size and the distance from the store to the customer, a delivery person might need a car or might be able to take public transportation. You can set a base rate and include functionality to calculate the actual rate automatically. In addition, you can implement surge pricing, which means the delivery fee can go up during peak hours.

Placing ads on the app

This monetization model is seen everywhere. Many apps include ads, which can cover expenses and allow companies to charge less for services, to their customers’ utter delight (or not).

Charging stores to be listed on your platform

If your app is already popular, you can charge a monthly fee for shops to partner with you and have their products displayed on your platform. In return, stores will get brand recognition and more customers.

Offering a membership option

Some grocery delivery apps provide a monthly or annual membership option. For example, with Instacart users can purchase a paid membership called Instacart Express. In exchange, customers get free deliveries on orders and don’t have to pay extra fees when shopping in multiple stores in one order.

You can use a single monetization model or combine several.

Mind Studios' experience

Mind Studios’ knowledge of how to make an app like Instacart is not theoretical. We know firsthand about on-demand grocery delivery app development since one of the projects we are particularly proud of is a Danish food delivery application.

James Butler is a mobile application that allows users to order items from physical shops and get them delivered to their doorsteps within 30 minutes. For this project, we basically developed two applications: one for the customers to make orders and one for the couriers to deliver those orders.

James Butler app

We took on the challenge of building two complex applications, both for two platforms (iOS and Android), in just three months. All we had to start with was our client’s general strategic vision and a few basic visual mockups. But the project was successfully completed by October 2019 as planned, just a few months before the pandemic triggered a huge demand for this kind of service.

Naturally, the development process wasn’t smooth and carefree. Along the way, our team had to overcome some obstacles and find out-of-the-box solutions.

For example, we had to quickly find an alternative payment gateway to Stripe, which turned out to not support instant payments in Denmark. As a result, we chose the Danske Bank, but still had to make some adjustments and create a Ruby-written solution to integrate a smoothly running instant payment system into the James app on time.

In the end, despite the tight deadline, we transformed the client’s vision into an app used by thousands of Danes. After the product was soft-launched, we gathered feedback from both customers and couriers, which helped us carry the app out to perfection.


As you’ve seen from the statistics featured in this article, the demand for online grocery shopping platforms will continue to grow, no matter whether it’s the US, Europe, or Asia. Obviously, there already are dozens of popular grocery delivery platforms. However, it is still a viable business idea as long as you choose an experienced and trustworthy development team.

Whether you want to discuss your idea, find out how much it’s going to cost you to create a grocery delivery app, or talk through the terms of outsourcing our team — book a free consultation with Mind Studios. Our business development consultants will answer any questions you may have and help you get a better understanding of how the grocery delivery app can be implemented.