Last Updated on 2024-02-29

How To Boost Your Earnings With the Shipt Preferred Shopper Program

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

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James Tuliano

4 years of experience working across Shipt and DoorDash

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Catherine Meyers

5 years of experience working across Shipt and Instacart

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Phil Grossman

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

The Shipt Preferred Shopper program lets customers select their preferred Shoppers and send orders directly to them (this program doesn’t apply to Drivers — read about the differences between the roles). This allows Shoppers to build up a list of reliable customers who tip well, rate well, and are easy to deal with instead of chasing orders on the open market and dealing with difficult customers. In fact, long-term Shipt Shoppers can find themselves exclusively serving their preferred customers, avoiding the open market entirely.

But if you’re new to Shipt, this can pose challenges too: in many metro areas, Shipt Shoppers and customers are already paired up, meaning there will be fewer open-market orders for you to accept. This may also result in rookies getting stuck with more Delivery Only orders, which don’t provide the ability to develop a Preferred Shopper base and are generally not considered worth it by experienced Shoppers. 

With all that said, it can be worth putting in the time to get past that rookie period, since Preferred Shoppers can definitely switch to you over time. Experienced Shopper Catherine Meyers says, “I’ve definitely had customers switch over to me. Yes, they might have established relationships with other shoppers, but Shoppers leave the platform for any number of reasons, so any customer COULD choose you to be their preferred Shopper.”

The Preferred Shopper program is unique to Shipt, and similar features on competitor apps like DoorDash or Instacart aren’t as fully fleshed out. Taking advantage of Shipt’s Preferred Shopper program is essential to maximizing your earnings as a Shopper. Here, we’ll show you how it all works.

How the Preferred Shopper program works

Every time an order is completed, customers have the option to add you as a Preferred Shopper in the Shipt app. Once they do so, they’ll be able to send orders directly to you instead of putting them out on the open market. That gives customers the opportunity to work with their favorite Shoppers, and Shoppers an opportunity to build a more reliable order stream. 

Overall, this turns Shipt into a more long-term gig than other similar apps. 

How will I know if I’ve been chosen as a Preferred Shopper?

You will be notified when a customer adds you as one of their Preferred Shoppers. You can decline being added as a Preferred Shopper, and the customer will not be notified. 

Once several customers add you as their Preferred Shopper, you may notice that you receive notifications to fulfill their orders more often.

How Preferred Shopper orders work

Once you are a Preferred Shopper for a specific customer, you will receive a priority notification to accept their orders. This priority notification is individually sent to every Preferred Shopper on that customer’s list, so you will receive these requests whether or not you are on the schedule. 

You will only have one minute to claim the order before it becomes available on the open market. If an order is claimed before you tap the notification, the offer will no longer be visible in the app. Customers aren't notified when you reject their request. 

Other than that, these orders function identically to all other orders on Shipt, so you will not have to do anything differently once you accept an order from a preferred member.

When growing your Preferred Shopper client list, it’s useful to receive a heads-up before a customer places an order so you can be ready. Therefore, it may be helpful to encourage your clients to send you a message via the Shipt app to prime you for the incoming order. 

How it affects you as a Shopper

When you shop for Shipt, you work as a self-employed independent contractor — you’re running your own business. For Shoppers looking to establish a long-term presence in the gig economy, the Preferred Shopper program provides a golden opportunity to transform your gig work into a sustainable, client-driven business model. It’s one of the key ways that Shipt differs from Instacart and other gig apps. 

On the flip side, breaking into the Shipt market can be more challenging due to the exclusivity of the Preferred Shopper program. If a market is saturated with Preferred Shoppers, it may take some time for new Shipt customers to add you to their list, so building a base of customers can be difficult. 

Once you break in, however, you can expect the following benefits: 

Fewer problematic customers

One significant advantage of the program is the ability to avoid problematic customers. When accepting orders on the open market, you’re bound to run into problematic customers who give you unfair ratings or don’t tip. 

A rating score below 4.7 can result in your account being deactivated, so avoiding low ratings is important. Shipt has been expanding its rating forgiveness program, but it’s still better to avoid low ratings in the first place. Whether it's low tips or unfair ratings, the Preferred Shopper program serves as a shield against these potential pitfalls.

More reliable scheduling

As you increase the number of customers who have you listed as a preferred Shopper, you may be able to use their order placement patterns to define your own schedule a bit more. For example, if you know your customers tend to place orders on Monday and Friday afternoons, you can make sure to be available at those times. This allows you to structure your Shipt schedule around these orders and gives you more stability.

Increased income

Once you build up a base of customers, you will also be able to selectively cater to higher tippers, increasing your Shipt earnings. Depending on your customers’ habits, you may also be able to dependably bundle orders together to maximize your earnings for a single grocery run. 

Being a Preferred Shopper for many Shipt users can also reduce your reliance on Prepaid and Delivery-Only orders. This plays into the above effects since you will retain schedule flexibility and increased income while reducing the tip and schedule variance associated with these types of orders.

Tips on how to get selected as a Preferred Shopper

Ensure timely and accurate fulfillments

Ensuring that a delivery is exactly what the customer is looking for is the single biggest way to get them to add you to their Preferred Shopper list. Time management and situational awareness are key to fulfilling orders accurately. This usually means ensuring orders are not delivered late, but unless orders are tagged with an ‘Early OK’ label, it’s important to avoid overly early deliveries as well. 

James Tuliano, a Shipt Shopper with 4 years of experience, explains: “Customers usually choose a window where they know they are going to be home to put their perishable goods away. If you deliver before that window, they may not be home and you'll almost definitely get a bad rating… practicing good time management is crucial.

Shipt has a list of best practices for Shoppers, so make sure you go over those and integrate them into your workflow.

Fulfill lots of orders (but be strategic about them)

Think of this as a numbers game — fulfilling more orders will put you in contact with more customers and maximize the opportunities to get selected. But remember not to take so many deliveries that you overwhelm yourself and can’t get them done on time. You’ll also want to stay mindful of the pay for each order so that you don’t take on tons of low-paying deliveries. 

Keep track of those who tip well, as that will help prioritize if you receive a bunch of order requests at the same time.

Be communicative

It's a best practice to keep in touch with your customer as you shop and learn their preferences. Always check in with them if an item is out of stock, if you need to make a substitution, if you’re running late, or if there are any other changes. 

As you learn more about your customers, you’ll find that some prefer fewer texts and updates, and you can adjust your communication style accordingly. 

Brand yourself and establish a personal connection

Establishing a rapport with a customer will go a long way toward being added as a Preferred Shopper. You can do this by adding some personal flair to your messages — think of this as your branding can go a long way too. Take a look at Robert “RJ” Woldhuis, a Shopper who made six figures from Shipt, for an example of how this can help.

Once you get to know a customer, you can also cater to their preferred communication style — just make sure it always remains professional. 

Get Started

Can you see yourself as a Shipt Shopper? Apply now to get on the road and start earning.

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