Instacart pickups now include alcohol and let stores know you're nearby

And you can send your buddies to make the collection.

Online grocery company Instacart has added a bunch of new features to its Pickup service, designed to make it even easier to click-and-collect your stuff. Customers can now shop via smart storefronts -- a single digital storefront for each of your favorite grocers on the platform -- and enable location-based notifications to let the store know when you're nearby, so handover is quick and seamless.

Other new features include Pick Your Pickup mapping, which lets customers select the pickup location most convenient to their route each day, plus customized navigation and the option to send a friend or family member to collect an order in their place. And to round out the new additions, Instacart now offers alcohol pickup -- in addition to delivery -- from more than 20 partners, so you don't need to make an extra stop for that crate of beer.

Instacart started out as a delivery service, but it seems to be increasingly focused on pickup options. Last year, the company came under fire after counting customer tips toward its minimum pay goals, with workers accusing it of effectively stealing tips. Thousands of Instacart shoppers went on a three-day strike over the default tipping option, which cut the rate to 5 percent rather than 10 percent. In November 2019, Instacart scapped a $3 quality bonus for shoppers who received five-star ratings, further adding to concerns over pay.

Other major retailers already offer pickups, of course, but by adding these new features -- and expanding to include booze, which would not be without its logistical challenges in terms of laws and ID -- the company clearly wants to position itself at the default click-and-collect provider. Looking ahead, the company says it expects to double the number of stores offering pickups this year.