Last Updated on 2024-02-19

How Being a Shipt Shopper Works: A Step-By-Step Guide

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Catherine Meyers

5 years of experience working across Shipt and Instacart

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James Tuliano

4 years of experience working across Shipt and DoorDash

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Joshua Merritt

4 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, Shipt, and UberEats

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Davis Porter

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

Shipt offers the flexibility to work on your own terms and the opportunity to establish personal connections with customers during grocery deliveries.

Customers get to enjoy personalized shopping experiences, timely deliveries, and one-on-one interactions with dedicated service providers. Shoppers, on the other hand, can take advantage of Shipt's platform, which provides access to multi-stream income opportunities, streamlines order management, enriches customer engagement, and optimizes service delivery. 

In this post, we'll share a step-by-step guide on how shopping for Shipt works and what you should expect when you become a Shipt Shopper. 

What is a Shipt Shopper?

A Shipt Shopper is both a personal shopper and a delivery person. They receive orders through the Shipt app, personally select items at the store as per the customer's request, and then deliver them to the customer's location. 

They fulfill a different role than Shipt Drivers, who are hired to pick up multiple prepackaged orders from Target stores and deliver them along pre-planned routes.

Shipt Shoppers may end up shopping at a wide array of retail stores, depending on where the customer is ordering from and their location. This can include grocery stores like Kroger, Capital City Market, Lidl, and Costco; electronics and home goods stores like Office Depot and Big Lots; and pharmacy chains such as Walgreens.

Becoming a Shipt Shopper

Becoming a Shipt Shopper is straightforward. First, apply to become one via the Shipt Shopper application. You’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid current mailing address.
  • Have a valid U.S. driver’s license and auto insurance (must meet your state’s minimum requirements)
  • Have access to a reliable vehicle (1997 or newer)
  • Have knowledge of produce selection
  • Be able to lift 45 pounds
  • Have access to a smartphone - iPhone (iOS 10 or newer) or Android (5.1 or newer).

After you apply, you’ll be asked to consent to a background check. If you pass, you’ll be invited to a short “interview” (it’s more like an entrance exam than an interview). Finally, if you do well on that, you’ll be ready to start working as a Shopper. 

First days on the job

New Shipt Shoppers undergo an onboarding process that includes a two-part tutorial. It walks them through the basics of using the Shipt Shopper App, from scheduling, viewing, and claiming orders to messaging customers, tracking shopper stats, fulfilling orders, and getting paid. 

The platform offers downloadable checklists with highlights on how Shipt Shoppers work. You can use them as references to guide your first shopping experiences. 

Rookie period

Initiation into Shipt Shopping begins with the "Rookie Period." This phase comprises a Shopper's first 10 orders, during which the newcomer is granted priority offerings and scheduling privileges to help them transition smoothly into the job and familiarize themselves with Shipt's rules.

They also get easy access to promotional orders, which incentivize onboarding while contributing to the initial quota of orders. During this period, you’ll be restricted to only one order per delivery window. This is meant to keep you focused on optimizing your service quality without the pressure of juggling multiple orders.

Once you complete 10 orders, Shipt drops all the “Rookie” privileges and starts gauging your performance on the same pedestal as seasoned Shoppers. 

Activating the Shipt Shopper card

Shoppers can activate their Shipt card through their Shipt app by tapping their profile picture, selecting "Shipt card," and following the prompts. The app can also be used to activate virtual cards and add them to Apple Wallet or Google Wallet. You’ll then be able to shop in retail stores without a physical card. 

Without a card, your orders are greatly limited,” confirms Joshua Merritt, a four-year multi-platform gig worker with Shipt, Instacart, DoorDash, and UberEats. He advises shoppers to obtain both physical and virtual cards, as it’ll maximize the amount of orders available. 

However, the cards are not necessarily mandatory requirements for all Shipt shoppers . You only need a virtual or physical card to process “Shop & Deliver and Shop Only orders. 

In the two years that Catherine Meyers has served Shipt, she says she’s gone months without ever pulling a Shipt card. She explains, “Some shop & deliver orders are labeled prepaid. So, you're able to tell ahead of time if you'll need your physical card or if the order has been prepaid by the customer.”

Still, Catherine agrees with Joshua on the importance of having both virtual and physical Shipt cards. The physical one can be a handy alternative whenever pain pads are down. 

Accepting Shipt orders

When a Shipt order is available, Shoppers are alerted through in-app or push notifications. Tapping on a push notification will take you to the specific order. Any subsequent unclaimed order will move to the Open Metro section, which is accessible to all Shoppers in that area.

To claim an order, Shoppers simply tap "Claim" on the offer card presented within the app. You’re advised to proceed only after evaluating the relevant task parameters, such as proximity to the store or policies set by the retailer. This is one way of ensuring that orders are claimed by Shoppers who are in a position to fulfill them efficiently.

Shipt allocates orders based on Shoppers’ performance stats, customer preferences, and work schedules. 

Metros and zones

Shipt organizes its service areas into metros and zones. 

A metro is a large coverage area, usually spanning across a city. It’s further divided into several zones, each with its designated retail stores and delivery locations. Shoppers have the freedom to operate in any Shipt metro, and they can choose their zones according to personal preference or strategic planning.

The selection process is done on the app. Shoppers can make adjustments at any time based on their availability or maybe explore different areas for potentially more lucrative opportunities. 

While shoppers can select as many zones as they wish, we recommend starting with no more than two to avoid over-commitment issues and ensure you maintain manageable order volumes.

Types of Shipt orders

Shipt orders are categorized by labels, as follows:

  • Shop & Deliver Orders: Shoppers select items for a customer, pay for them with their Shipt card, and deliver within a designated time frame.
  • Prepaid Orders: No in-store payment is required by the Shopper. Purchases and transactions are all done online by customers, and Shipt Shoppers come in to shop for and deliver the items.
  • Delivery Only Orders: These orders are prepacked and ready for pickup at the store, awaiting the Shopper to deliver them to the customer. No shopping is required.
  • Shop Only Orders: Only shopping is required, and items are picked up from the store by the customer.   

Shipt certification 

Through certifications, Shipt provides its Shoppers with the opportunity to get around some of its order restrictions. 

Shipt certifications are online training programs that provide interested Shipt Shoppers with the skills and knowledge to handle certain orders requiring additional care or legal compliance. Certifications currently available on the platform are for Alcohol Delivery, Shop Only, and Disney Deliver. 

They are optional but can expand your range of services and income opportunities. The availability of these specialized services may differ by metro. Shipt Shoppers should confirm the certifications available in their area before enrolling.  

Accepting multiple orders

Another way to maximize efficiency while boosting earnings as a Shipt shopper is by accepting bundled orders. 

Shipt pairs orders into bundles based on logistical considerations like store proximity, order size similarity, and closeness of the delivery addresses. This gives Shoppers the chance to fulfill several orders in one trip, saving time, expanding profitability, and raising customer satisfaction rates.  

Shoppers only become eligible for such offers after they’ve completed their first 10 orders as rookies. The bundles are easily identifiable in the app by a label showing the total order count. 

“After the first ten orders, they can also craft their own bundles by accepting more than one order at once,” says Joshua. “This is more lucrative than accepting the bundles that Shipt creates automatically as they usually dull down the base pay for the bundles. Just need to be mindful of order size and delivery locations.”

Shopping in Shipt retail stores

Shipt Shoppers start by reviewing the app's shopping list, which provides item details and images for easy identification. When you’re on the way to the store, the list becomes more interactive, allowing you to mark the items as found or not. 

Upon arrival at the retail store, the app guides Shoppers through the aisles with a list organized by category. Shoppers can then select items while following the customer's preferences for quality, checking expiration dates, and considering special requests. For any unavailable items, Shoppers may get in touch with their customers for advice on possible substitutions. 

James Tuliano, who’s been with Shipt since 2020, points out that stores like Target have even numbered their aisles for an even more seamless shopping experience. “Some stores, like Target, also give the aisle numbers, which can make first-time shoppers more confident since they'll know exactly where each item is supposed to be.”  

When it comes to managing multiple orders, the Shipt app consolidates shopping lists and organizes items using color-coded icons superimposed with the first and last initials of the customer.

To keep the many orders separated and organized while shopping, Joshua advises Shipt Shoppers to “bring bags or dividers for the cart when taking multiple orders to help keep the orders separated and organized.”

Checking Out

Before proceeding to checkout, Shipt Shoppers are required to verify that all items in the cart match the shopping list in the app. 

The checkout process itself usually depends on the order type. For example, for “Shop & Deliver" orders, items are scanned, and payment is made with the Shipt card. Shoppers should then bag items carefully, mindful of their fragility and temperature requirements.

According to Joshua, Shoppers “can also avoid self-checkout and go to an actual cashier so the bagging of items is done by a pro. It can be really hard to use self-checkout if you have a large order with how small some self-checkout areas are.”

After checkout, Shoppers are advised to retain the printed receipt until delivery is completed, since it may be needed for returns. However, you should never hand over any physical copies to “Shop & Deliver" customers, as the platform always provides them with digital receipts. 

Paying for orders

Upon activating the Shipt card in the app, Shoppers can proceed to use it as a credit card when paying for “Shop & Deliver” and “Shop Only” orders. In stores accepting virtual pay, Shoppers can also use the digital Shipt card added to their Apple Wallet or Google Wallet.

For Pre-Paid Orders, James Tuliano advises Shipt Shoppers to always check and make sure that the store attendant has scanned the barcode on the app to verify and complete the order. “Those orders are just checked by  a customer service rep in-store (normally the self-checkout worker) who verifies the items are correct. A common rookie mistake is that they just walk out without verifying with the store clerk (who scans a barcode on the app to complete the order) which can lead to deactivation.”

Virtual card transactions are typically made by holding the phone near a contactless reader. Afterward, a photo of the receipt is uploaded, and the order total is confirmed in the app through transaction matching or manual entry.

In cases where the card cannot be used, Joshua emphasizes that the affected Shoppers should first contact Shipt support for assistance: “They should always contact shipt support right then and there about card issues before using their personal card.” The support team may direct you to complete the transaction with your personal card, and then thereafter apply for reimbursement from Shipt

To get a refund, you’ll be required to fill out a form with your Shopper ID, order number, requested reimbursement amount, and a photo of the receipt.

Delivering Shipt orders

Order information in the Shipt app is always accompanied by the delivery details. After accepting an order, Shoppers should be able to review particulars on the delivery window, address, and any special instructions from the customer. 

When it comes to the actual handover, the standard delivery mode for most individuals is hand-to-hand. This is where the Shopper physically meets their customer and directly hands them the groceries. 

The alternative is door drop-off orders, where items are left at a designated spot at the customer's residence. Shoppers fulfilling such requests are required to take a photo of the dropped-off order and upload it to the app as proof of delivery. 

“You can always see what the drop-off type is (handover vs. leave at door) BEFORE accepting the order. If you only wanted to accept orders that were drop-offs only, then you could do that,” says James

From the years that Catherine has spent on Shipt, she has noticed that the vast majority of customers prefer their orders dropped off. “The vast majority of customers want drop-off, to the point that, if I see hand-to-hand, I will message them before the order to ensure that's actually what they want. Most of the time, they say they want it left at the door.”

Upon completing the delivery and fulfilling the order, Shoppers may receive feedback or ratings from customers. Positive interactions and successful deliveries often lead to higher ratings and potentially more tips.

Early delivery orders

Early delivery orders, which are marked with a teal "Early OK" label, allow Shoppers to optimize their schedules for greater efficiency. These orders can be delivered at any time between the store's opening and the close of the designed delivery window. Shoppers can thus strategically integrate them into their routes alongside other deliveries, reducing driving time and enhancing overall productivity.

Before proceeding with the order, Shoppers should reach out to the customer and agree on an estimated delivery time to confirm when the customer is available to receive the order. 

Alcohol delivery

Alcohol is an exclusive delivery option that is open to only a select few. Even after meeting all the Shipt application requirements, passing the Shipt background check, and completing the Rookie stage, Shoppers are still required to seek special Alcohol Delivery certification from the platform. 

The certification course is offered by the state to help Shoppers understand the precise legal requirements for alcohol delivery in their area. Shipt has so far expanded its alcohol delivery operations to about 20 states, including California, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, Texas, Oregon, Kentucky, and Georgia.

For qualified Shoppers in these areas, alcohol orders can only be delivered to customers who are at least 21 years old. They’re supposed to present a valid physical ID during delivery, which the Shopper should verify through the built-in scanner in their Shipt app. Shoppers are also  required to collect a digital signature from the recipient before handing over the delivery. 

If the recipient fails to present a valid ID or is unavailable at the time of delivery, the alcohol order must be returned to the store. Shoppers may contact Shipt support for instructions on managing the return.

Late forgiveness

Shipt recognizes that unforeseen circumstances can sometimes delay deliveries. In such cases, Shoppers should immediately inform both the customer and Shipt support. 

If the delay ends up negatively affecting your On-Time Percentage Rate, Shipt offers reprieve through its Late Forgiveness policy. This is meant to reverse any underserved drop in performance metrics due to unavoidable delays. 

For late forgiveness consideration, Shoppers must initiate a request via the app or by contacting Shipt support directly. They should provide a detailed account of the circumstances leading to the delay, offering evidence where possible. Shipt will then assess the case objectively and decide whether to approve or deny the Late Forgiveness request. 

Rating forgiveness

Shipt’s rating forgiveness program is exactly the same idea as the late forgiveness program, but for low customer ratings. It’s inevitable that you’ll get an unfairly low rating at some point. With the rating forgiveness program, you can request to have that low rating removed. 

To do so, just fill out the Shipt rating forgiveness request form

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