Instacart quickly onboards and reverifies shoppers to foster trust and safety on its platform with Persona

Learn how Instacart future-proofs its identity program by partnering with Persona’s agile, product-driven team and flexible platform.

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Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America that is transforming how people shop. The company facilitates online shopping, delivery, and pickup services from more than 85,000 stores across North America, making it possible for millions of people to get the groceries they need while enabling approximately 600,000 Instacart shoppers to earn by picking, packing, and delivering orders on their own flexible schedule. 

Problem: Instacart’s shopper verification process was largely manual and unscalable

As a delivery platform, trust and safety is paramount for Instacart — shoppers want to know that their account is safe, while customers want to be able to trust their shopper to deliver the correct order promptly.

To keep its platform, customers, and shoppers safe, Instacart verifies shoppers' identities both at signup and on a continual basis — an initiative headed by its senior manager of fraud and identity, Brian Peterson. “As Instacart grew, we decided we needed a specific team to handle identity issues and make sure each shopper is the right person doing their job,” he explains.

While this may sound simple, it requires juggling multiple priorities, including:

  • Ensuring users have a good experience. Instacart needed a fast and efficient way for an applicant to become a shopper, as the more friction it introduced, the higher the chance shoppers wouldn’t follow through with it.
  • Keeping out bad actors. Part of the goal of identity verification is making sure bad actors aren’t getting into other people’s accounts and accessing PII or other sensitive data.
  • Validating that shoppers are actually who they claim to be. In the on-demand economy, Instacart onboards people based on criteria they can perform, but it doesn’t actively observe them doing their work. As such, making sure the person who signed up is actually the one doing the work is important.
  • Accomplishing the above without a heavy operational burden. Instacart could hire many people to do these checks manually, but it didn’t feel it made sense at its volumes. As such, it wanted a vendor to provide accurate assessments of identity and minimize the amount of manual work its team had to do.

Before Persona, Instacart partnered with other solutions to verify shoppers. However, it quickly found that these vendors weren’t able to streamline as much of the process as it was looking for. “While testing other identity vendors, we noticed gaps and accuracy issues, so we ended up relying more on manual review. We knew we needed a partner that can stay ahead of the curve and meet the challenges we’re currently facing,” Brian explains.

To help future-proof its identity operations, it set out to find a new identity partner.

At Instacart, we try to do as much as we can on our own, but when it comes to big volumes and building out something very complex like an identity program, it made sense to go with a vendor.
Brian Peterson
Senior Manager, Fraud and Identity at Instacart

Solution: Instacart uses Persona to seamlessly verify shoppers and grow its platform

Despite a strong culture of building solutions in-house, Instacart knew it made sense to partner with an expert in identity. “At Instacart, we try to do as much as we can on our own, but when it comes to big volumes and building out something very complex like an identity program, it made sense to go with a vendor,” Brian explains.

After evaluating multiple solutions, it ultimately decided to partner with Persona for the following reasons:

Seamless shopper onboarding

First and foremost, Instacart partnered with Persona to quickly and accurately verify shoppers. Automated KYC verification is the bread and butter of what Persona is doing for Instacart. It uses Persona’s tech to make sure people are submitting authentic driver’s licenses and selfies, which is very valuable for Instacart to maintain trust and safety on its platform.

When it comes to maximizing conversion, speed is key. Most people signing up want to start as soon as possible, and any delays in the verification process delay how soon they can use the platform. Automating the process with Persona allows Instacart to offer a better, more seamless experience and get individuals on the platform faster. Some people are even approved in less than an hour, which is helpful for the individual and helps Instacart grow their business quickly.

While automatic verifications are helpful, Instacart also appreciates how Persona allows it to customize its verification flows. 

One area where this has come in handy is adding tips to guide users having trouble getting through the verification process. “The last thing we want is for users to have to contact support or try again,” Brian explains. “Dynamic Flow allows us to get more granular with specific use cases and give enough direction to help good actors get through the verification process successfully without telling bad actors why they failed or opening us up to a bunch of potential fraud by loosening friction.”

This also means Instacart can deploy different flows for different use cases instead of treating everyone the same — for example, shoppers who have already successfully verified their identity through Persona can reverify themselves with just a selfie, whereas shoppers verifying themselves for the first time need to submit both a government ID and selfie.

The last thing we want is for users to have to contact support or try again. Dynamic Flow allows us to get more granular with specific use cases and give enough direction to help good actors get through the verification process successfully without telling bad actors why they failed or opening us up to a bunch of potential fraud by loosening friction.
Brian Peterson
Senior Manager, Fraud and Identity at Instacart

Account takeover prevention via periodic reverification

Instacart also relies on Persona to reverify users to protect their accounts — and to ensure their IDs are current. The ability to continuously check on who’s doing the work and also being able to leverage when Instacart wants to do that based on specific scenarios is very important and valuable to the team.

To streamline the process, Instacart has shoppers reverify their identity by simply taking a selfie. Persona then compares it to the portrait on the government ID they uploaded when they first onboarded. The ability to facial match the identity of the person taking a selfie later on and tie that back to their original images is essential. Persona also checks for liveness — having the ability to detect when it’s a still image versus a live image, which is very beneficial to the team.

To further protect accounts, Instacart also uses Persona’s list feature to deny known fraudsters. If it sees the same person in driver’s license photos and selfies using a different account, it can add them to a block list so no matter what identity they’ve created, it can detect that it’s the same bad actor and block the individual from getting any further.

Configurable manual review hub

For Instacart, the goal isn’t to eliminate manual reviews — it’s to conduct reviews as efficiently as possible. “The amount of manual review we used to do was pretty high. As our shopper base has grown, we knew we had to figure out a more scalable solution,” he adds.

Its solution: Persona’s automated KYC paired with Cases, which has become Instacart’s home base for manual review.

Before Persona, Instacart was struggling with disjointed data and tools during the manual review process. “Our old vendors would provide backend data, and we’d have to ingest that and do most of the reviews and actions within our own system, which required a lot of engineering effort on our side.”

To Instacart, this seemed unnecessary. As Brian explains, “Building those tools internally is a lot more maintenance. We’re a growing company with a lot of priorities we’re constantly juggling.”

When Instacart discovered our configurable case management and manual investigation tool, it was like a breath of fresh air for the team. “If we were doing it internally, we’d need to have 3-5 tabs open with different information to get the big picture, whereas with Persona’s UI, we can see all of an account’s inquiries, its history, and what’s failed or passed — all on one timeline,” says Brian. “Having a one-stop shop to conduct reviews and take follow-up actions allows us to get them done as fast as possible without needing to borrow or use more business resources.”

In addition to having everything in one place and being able to track metrics like SLAs, Instacart is also grateful for the ability to customize Cases to meet its specific needs. “We all like the way Cases is built and the way we can customize it,” Brian shares. “We can assign agents a certain number of reviews, and we can use tags to put specific types of cases into a queue for specific agents to view. If a certain type of review should be handled by more junior team members and another should be handled by higher-level team members, we can assign the flow to go to each of those channels and ensure the appropriate team is doing the review.”

With Persona, Instacart saves valuable time not having to manually review as many cases. “Now, we review very specific cases instead of a wider net we used to have to cast, because our previous vendors didn’t have all the different fraud flags available. With Persona, we can change the parameters as we see things that are more important to focus on — noting which situations are ‘hard nos’ and which need manual review.”

With Persona’s UI, we can see all of an account’s inquiries, its history, and what’s failed or passed — all on one timeline. Having a one-stop shop to conduct reviews and take follow-up actions allows us to get them done as fast as possible without needing to borrow or use more business resources.
Brian Peterson
Senior Manager, Fraud and Identity at Instacart

Partnership and expertise

Finally, Instacart appreciates its close partnership with the Persona team. As Brian eloquently puts it, “Anybody can buy a product, but the service that comes with that product is equally important.”

With Persona, Instacart gets the best of both worlds — being able to self-serve whenever they want, but also having identity experts at their fingertips. “Persona gives us the ability to go in and make changes ourselves, but sometimes at the end of the day, we prefer to lean on the Persona team, who’s always receptive and available to help us craft or advise us on changes we want to make based on their experience partnering with other businesses.”

This expertise allows Instacart to focus on what’s important to them instead of having to become experts in the identity space. “It’s nice not having to worry about Persona,” Brian shares. “They’re constantly improving the product, and that allows us more time to do other things on our side of the business that are important without having to double-check and worry about what they’re doing.”

As a fast-moving company, Instacart especially appreciates Persona’s constant communication. “Having a very accountable and dependable team to work with has been one of the best aspects of working with Persona. We have consistent meetings where we’re delivering feedback, and during crunch times when there’s an issue at hand, getting that immediate support and follow-through is very valuable.”

Results: Instacart future-proofs its identity program by partnering with Persona’s agile, product-driven team and flexible platform

Thanks to Persona, Instacart is able to quickly verify users while maintaining high pass rates. This helps them offer a better user experience and ultimately grow their user base — while simultaneously protecting their users and platform.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Instacart can rest easy knowing Persona will help it scale and stay on top of emerging fraud trends. “In the future, we’re looking forward to partnering with Persona to tackle emerging types of fraud and stay ahead of the curve so we don’t get caught off guard,” says Brian.

While Instacart originally came to Persona for KYC, it’s gotten much more than it planned for. “Persona feels as invested in the partnership as we are — they didn’t leave us to figure everything out once we signed the contract. With Persona, we know they’ll grow and adapt to wherever we need to go as things change.”

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