Consumers have sifted from buying food D2C back to retail, but many are still buying through platforms like Instacart.
This episode I talk with Kevin Gawronski, of Gawronski Food and Beverage to get an overview of Instacart advertising and the opportunity. We discuss:
Want to drive sales through Instacart for your brand? Reach out to Kevin, and he’s happy to get you setup. email@example.com
Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at Foodbevy.com to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.
Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] Hey everyone. So as we move into 2023, a lot of brands are focused on retail over the shift from D2C. That happened during the pandemic because we saw, obviously, a lot of those sales kind of decline. But one missed opportunity for lot of Brands is really leveraging Instacart to be able to reach new customers in a way they do so through digital marketing and there's a lot of people who are still shopping there.
And so today I've invited on Kevin Gawronski of Gawronski Food and Beverage to be able to talk through how to letters Instacart for your brand. Kevin, welcome.
Kevin Gawronski: Thanks for having me back. I appreciate it.
Jordan Buckner: So I'd love for you to give a overview of what Instacart is like these days, and are you still seeing brands find success there?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah. So there's two parts to that question. You have the consumer that's changed over the years with Covid, like you said, and [00:01:00] everything. And are they still shopping online or are they still ordering their groceries online? And then you also have the brands priorities. So the past few years has been.
Pretty crazy and some would say a rollercoaster in terms of how those trends have gone. So I obviously with Covid you had all these brand new people using platforms like Instacart that were trying it for the first time. They were figuring out online grocery. You know, you had people more my parents' age starting to use , that you would never imagine were gonna use it.
And then also you had brands that were investing. You know, retail is still important, but you had a lot of people bored at home and D2C, obviously you had that D2C boom. Now it's interesting because a lot of that, you know, those behaviors and the restrictions and everything that caused that have wrapped up.
And a lot of people would wonder, does that mean that the people who are ordering their groceries online, you know, have stopped and now they're going back into the store And you know, does that mean that a lot of the brands that we're focusing on D2C are fully shifting to retail? And I think. Based on what we're seeing on an Instacart [00:02:00] with Instacart sales and performance on PPC advertising, everything has gotten better in terms of the volume of people searching for products, in terms of the sales.
That the brands are getting from ppc, their overall sales. So my answer to that question is, I guess I could say that you have brands prioritizing retail again over D2C and I don't think D2C dead. We do a lot of D2C advertising here and there's a time place for it.
And I also think that you have a lot of consumers that picked up that habit of ordering groceries online. That haven't dropped it, see the convenience and they're kind of reallocating that convenience to, you know, work life versus not wanting to go in a store you know, because of covid restrictions or anything like that.
Jordan Buckner: That makes a ton of sense. What's the opportunity look like for some of the emerging brands that you're working with? I mean, are these like a thousand dollars a week kind of sales? Are they $10,000 a week or a month? Like what's the kind of the size of the price?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah, it really depends almost a hundred percent on, [00:03:00] you know, the retailers that these brands are in and you know, where they are on the shelf.
I think that at this point, Instacart is friendly with pretty much every grocer, you know, obviously minus Whole Foods. But in terms of the opportunity you know, volume wise, like I said, it depends on, you know, what retailers they're in and everything there. But it's just that, in my opinion and kind of the way we put it here, It's an opportunity to show up when consumers are looking to buy something else and convince 'em to buy a product.
It's very similar to Amazon. It's very similar to Google. It's essentially, you know, I don't know if this is the cleanest way to say it, but you're stealing sales. From competitors, you know, that you either admire, that you either have going after you and you're also holding your ground against these people.
So with that being said, it's just a tremendous opportunity for overall velocity, right? It's people who, you know, if you couldn't find a way to do it in the store, you can find a way to do it online by being smart about your PPC, your SEO, and kind of the quality of your listings.
Jordan Buckner: Do you have a sense of example of retailers that are doing a [00:04:00] lot of volume or decent volume on Instacart?
I'm just saying like a lot of brands are like, I don't even know when I'm on Instacart yet cause I'm bringing on new retailers. Like Right. When's the right point to, and like, what, who are the right retailers to actually leverage for Instacart?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah. like I said, they pretty much cover every retailer you have.
The ones they're really friendly with is Publix. Obviously Publix uses their interface in their own app. It's powered through Instacart. They just announced that they're leveraging finally a retail specific platform where you could advertise to Sprouts only. Mm-hmm. Which is gonna be great. And I really hope that they continue to kind of do that retail specific platform.
Because in Instacart right now, you cannot choose the retailer you're advertising to. It's blanketed to wherever the UPC is sold. You know, that's kind of where, our advertisements are gonna show up versus being able to segment it. So they're really familiar with those two. Again, the ones obviously that they don't work well with is Whole Foods.
The other one that's interesting that we found [00:05:00] out is Walmart too. So there was a decent amount of Walmart stores that were active on the platform, and over the past few months, I think they've made it more public that they're not specifically working with Walmart. And it's very you know, a small volume of stores.
That are on Instacart that you could advertise through. So basically anything, non-war, non Whole Foods mom and pop stores are popping up now on Instacart. You could advertise through them. Everyone's kind of gotten on board with it.
Jordan Buckner: So as a brand, how do you know when's the right time to really invest in Instacart?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah, to be honest, the second you're on the shelf, so if , this was about a year ago. I would say, you know, maybe a hundred stores. Maybe 200 stores, and it's gonna start showing up because of what I just said, that even these mom and pops are on the platform, and we've seen this with other brands.
If you start spending dollars at that point, And you've been spending all the way up to the, you know, kind of the purity time where the brand is now in a Erewhon or they're in central market, or you're gonna have your [00:06:00] full base set in terms of your listings look nice, the algorithm favors you and I know a keywords work well with you.
So at this point, With how advanced Instacart has been, I would start the second that you're on any shelf. I would make sure your listings look nice. I would make sure you're covering your keywords. If you don't spend dollars, and you don't get impressions, you're not gonna get charged for something that's wasteful on Instacart, which is great on the other side.
As you get on the shelves of these other stores, like I said, you're set and the impressions will grow naturally as you had your paid advertising already active.
Jordan Buckner: Gotcha. So then the paid ads, are you're paying per click through on the ads or are you paying by impression?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah, so, the bidding is similar to Amazon and Google.
It's technically bidding on impressions per each keyword. Then they're gonna tell you the volume per each of those keywords. I love the part right here too, is the competitiveness. Of each keyword, so you can kind of figure out, based on my budget, if I'm vegan, right, a million different brands are bidding [00:07:00] on vegan and I'm not gonna win that with a $1,500 budget a month.
But if I am a vegan friendly, gluten-free tortilla, or something, that specific statement, right. I'm gonna be okay with, or if I have an individual ingredients that my competitors don't have, I could shift my dollars to spending there and assure that somebody's searching for this specific of a quality.
You know, we're gonna show up versus trying to fight you know, , the Goliath type brands that have unlimited budgets.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I mean, you mentioned something there, which I remember we talked about before, which is how Instacart's platform for advertising has become a lot more similar to Amazon in terms of the kinda specificity that you can get with some of the targeting.
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah. They're taking the best parts of Amazon. They're being really smart about it. It's essentially morphing into more and more of a creative platform. So when it started, And I think they expedited the launch of it with Covid, obviously. So a lot of the bigger brands had access to it at first, and then they rolled it out to smaller brands eventually, but it was just [00:08:00] basically sponsored product.
That's it. Over time, they've had display ads, they've had video ads, they have an impulse aisle, which I really love. They have a brand page. Which is very similar to an Amazon storefront. On the listings you can now do some lifestyle type photos. So they went from being very cold into the point almost to now being warmer, more friendly, more interactive.
Sometimes too much information isn't great, but I think they're doing a good job of like putting the parameters of just enough right, to kind of put out there to the consumer to get them to know the product.
Jordan Buckner: Awesome. And I know one of the big problems with the Instacart before is that a lot of times when your product would get listed, you just have like a generic image up and sometimes they're like back quality.
Does advertising and the platform now allow you to upload your own images of products?
Kevin Gawronski: So there's two parts to that. If you are advertising at all, the listings that you have in your account are what is going to show up. So that means if it's conquesting keywords, again, if I go back to the broad vegan search [00:09:00] term, Then my listing is going to show up how I have edited it in the platform.
On the other end, if you have a branded campaign going, or you have branded terms in there, if somebody searches your product name, it's probably sponsored and it's probably going to be the listing that you edited and created. If you are not running paid outs and somebody is searching naturally, it's whatever imagery the grocery store or the retailer has on file or you know, I make the joke sometimes the intern took a picture in the back and they don't really care what it looks like, so it's very important.
That you update your listings and it's just another reason to run paid advertising cuz you're making sure that even at a minimal budget, your listings to your liking with your credibility or what the consumer's gonna see,
Jordan Buckner: what's the spin that's necessary to start testing things on an Instacart?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah to start testing things out.
Like I said, it's low risk. Because you plug into UPC, it's only showing up in stores you're in. So you will never be like, why am I spending dollars? And we're showing up in Target and we're not in [00:10:00] Target, you know, we're in central market or something like that. So there isn't a big risk financially cuz you could cap how much you're spending.
Again, it won't go in the wrong places. You essentially just need. A lower budget. I mean, you can go $500 a month if you want, as a ceiling just to test it out and see if it works. Create a basic campaign. I like to do with brands like that that just wanna see what happens. Launch a manual campaign, upload five to 10 of your most relevant keywords that you think are gonna resonate best.
Adjust the listing, put in your basic imagery, make sure it's the clean white background shot that you might be using on Amazon or on your website or whatever it is. And to start without getting complex and leveraging all the other features, truthfully, that's all you need. And I think that it's something, like I said, everybody should be doing it because you have the right listing show up.
You never know. There might be a huge hole in the market where people are searching specifically for that product and they can't find it on Instacart and so on.
Jordan Buckner: You know, one thing I love about. Instacart and tools like this is that it's not just driving sales through [00:11:00] Instacart and thinking about the revenue ultimately that you get from there, but it's really about, you know, if you're launching into new retailers, this is another way to move volume through that retailer because right, they're pulling from store shelves.
And so it's a way to make sure that your product is moving off the shelf so that when you're launching or you're launching a new sku, you can be sure that you're getting the velocity that you need to stay on shelf. And it's a lot cleaner way of doing advertising that's really targeting , the stores and the locations that you're in, so that when you have those meetings with buyers, they're like, oh yeah, we see your velocity is moving because people are searching and buying products off the shelf.
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah, so I showed this off on LinkedIn the other day. I used the example of, we had somebody who started when they were in Mom and Pops. They got in a couple medium chains. Now they're in bigger chains. With those bigger chains that they're in now, you know, we were kind of fooling around in testing and we we'll put in the address of the new retailers if we live there to test that [00:12:00] specific store.
We typed in, let's use the example, it's a tortilla brand we typed in tortilla. They were in this new retailer for maybe a week or so. We did it on incognito. We did it on different devices. We showed up first, second, and third, I think eight or nine times out of 10. So again, instantly, you know, because they were running the stuff before.
They're under new retailers. There's no ramp up, they're already there. Right? It's a little bit of a snowball effect as you get more retailers that it'll just build and build and it's already rolling. So it's another reason. You know why that's really important?
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. That's awesome as you're saying because it's not like you have to start over for each individual retailer, each one, and doubles down on the other.
I don't like that. What other things should founders know about selling or working through Instacart?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah. Here's the other thing that I think is important because, so we've been doing this with Gawronski Food and Beverage for five years. A lot of the retail awareness. Initiatives we were doing paid social and Google and everything compared to now in 2023, it's [00:13:00] completely changed.
You could plug in Instacart in all of your paid media awareness campaigns. If you have a brand store on Instacart and you're doing a geotargeted paid social campaign on Instagram or Meta or TikTok. You could use that brand page as your landing page and if they have Instacart on their phone or on their computer and they click it, it's gonna pull in either the nearest store or the store they shop at and it's gonna show them the products available at that store and their Instacart brand page.
So I think, you know, to answer your question, I would just advise brands to kind of integrate it into their overall paid medium mix versus doing only. The ppc, right? I mean, you could have certain influencers push the stuff. I just think they've done a good job of connecting that retail piece to now the whole world of paid media awareness, which again, when we started it was a lot of store locators, which I still like certain store locators and third parties that you could leverage there, but they're doing a good job of now kind of migrating into that world, which I guess we didn't see coming, [00:14:00] you know, maybe a year, two years back.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that makes a ton of sense in terms of like where to invest and especially, have you seen any clients that you're working with kind of shifting their budgets from more like D2C spin towards ads and things, supporting their retail partners and kind of pulling Instacart into that mix?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah, I think it's kind of the fringe brands, Cuz I think the way I look at it is if you are a non-perishable and you're light. Those brands we work with, those kind of snack brands, they could do D2C they could do Amazon, be profitable, they could, you know, do direct to Shopify, and then they also have the other world where they could do retail.
Then you have the retail brands that are retail only, and that, by that I mean to drive direct sales, it's always the frozen brands that obviously can't ship and be profitable on the other platforms. I think overall, because of. The education of Instacart. Cuz even when we went to Expo East in the fall, , you would talk to brands and I'm not, you know, being hard on anybody, but you had some brands that didn't even know kind of how it worked type thing.
I think the education's there, I think the [00:15:00] numbers are there. And now I do think, going back to the beginning of the conversation, that some of the, from D2C has kind of died down with covid. You have people allocating more and more dollars to Instacart to at least test it out. And I would say too, at these trade shows, it went from, you know , how do we do Instacart to, I know we need to be doing Instacart.
That's kind of how it shifted. More recently,
Jordan Buckner: awesome. And then where do you think Instacart is going from here? Do you think they're gonna continue to like, drive more awareness or, I'm sure they probably saw a dip in sales just in users after their pandemic, but I'm sure it's gonna slowly go back up.
Are you seeing like retailers embracing Instacart still?
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah, I mean obviously the one thing everybody would love is some retail data, but I think there's legality behind that with the retailers and. I think then their path is gonna be kind of having these platforms specific to each retailer, like what they're doing at Sprouts.
I'm surprised they haven't done it with Publix yet. Then on the other end too, I like where they're at. I like the [00:16:00] features. I don't know how many more features. That they could offer. I think it'd be more integrating it, like I said, with the external paid media, if it's promo codes if it's conversion tracking, which you could actually do with the Instacart brand page, you can see how many people clicked it externally and then purchased from it.
But yeah I like where they're at. I like what they're doing. The fact that it's universal makes it an easy investment. I mean, universal by its multiple different retailers versus. Working with some of these other third parties that are Kroger specific or target specific. Again, to answer that question, I think it's the integration piece.
Like could they in integrate it better with influencers and tracking and, you know, other ways of people to drive awareness and traffic to their listings to be bought in a store.
Jordan Buckner: Awesome. So yeah, it. , I love this easy way for people to get started. Is it fairly easy for a brand to start out on their own and get the stem instacart, or are there any like, challenges or hurdles for a brand getting set up?
Kevin Gawronski: It's pretty simple. I [00:17:00] think as an agency, the way we do things, we always say, if you could do it yourself, don't pay somebody to do it, even if it's us, but. I do think using somebody like us, here's a plug to our agency who knows, you know, how to set it up. And you have to work with Instacart specifically.
You can't just go and create an account and connect your UPCs. You have to claim them from Instacart. You have to show proof of the brands. Then they add you to the account, then you upload the listings. So it is a process. I would have somebody who knows what they're doing, cover the basics. Just to make sure that you know, everything's showing up as it is, and sometimes you'll find out crazy things like the UPCs are reading in like half the stores you thought or double the stores you thought, or some UPCs aren't on Instacart that have been in existence.
You know, for five, 10 years type things. And we've seen some crazy stuff like that. But yeah, I think if a brand wanted to, you know, just contact Instacart ad support, they'll get you started with an account. I think if you wanna do it right, you know, and cover your basis, you work with somebody like us [00:18:00] who does this on a daily basis.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah. I think that's . awesome. And I know. Few founders , are thinking about like their Instacart strategy, but it can also be a powerful addition to add to your portfolio mix. And so if you don't have the mental space to add this in, but you know you should be doing it, then it makes sense to work with someone like you to.
Make sure that this is actually driving sales and velocity. And I think that's the other part, right? As we talked about earlier, you know, this can have a material impact on your business, both from a sales perspective, but then also from a retailer relationship perspective, if, you know, you're moving volume and velocity and increasing your velocity at those retailers is a great way to do that.
Kevin Gawronski: Yeah. So I would say the last thing, cause we see all sides of this stuff, right? And now I'm getting involved with some brands on the other end too, but, We when a lot of the brands we partner with are going through review and they are on Instacart, they want to see that you are spending the time and the money to look credible and to attract new consumers to buy your product.
So I know it used to be a plus for people [00:19:00] to have that information, you know, to send to the retailers when they wanted that kind of confirmation and kind of an extra piece to say like, Hey, we're trying. It's become almost a necessity. That we're sending this to the brands to then show the retailers like, we are putting money into this, we're getting sales.
Here are the keywords that are working best. Here are our listings. Here's our brand page. You know, and so on. So I think that's a big piece of it. Also, the last thing I wanted to mention too is the women owned and black owns credits that they give brands. So any founders that qualify in those categories, if you just reach out to them, they'll give you a credit.
When they set up the account. And it's also a great way to kind of get intro to the platform and to have a good start. Yeah, to me that's one of the best parts about that platform and I don't know why these other ones aren't doing it.
Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I love that. I'm glad you mentioned that.
And it's a reduces the barrier for entries for all, all of your listeners to get in. So if this is something you're not taking advantage of, make sure that you get signed up instead of right away. And you mentioned Kevin, right? Like get the engine going, start learning the platform. [00:20:00] Work with someone if you don't have the time , to fully dive into or manage it.
But it will pay for itself. So Kevin, thanks so much for being on today and talking about Instacart.
Kevin Gawronski: Thank you. I appreciate it. And yeah, reach out directly. Find us on LinkedIn, Gawronski fb.com if you have any questions. We'd love to help.
Jordan Buckner: Awesome, thanks.