Autonomous Shopping Platform

Ecomm Grocer Launches 1st ‘True Autonomous Shopping’ Platform

Boxed.com’s Smart StockUp, Concierge platforms predict, fulfill orders

August 8, 2017, 03:04 pm By Randy Hofbauer, EnsembleIQ

An ecommerce retailer focused on making it easier to stock up and save by bulk-ordering groceries is one-upping the competition – even Amazon.com – with technology that will provide its patrons with what it calls the first “true autonomous shopping” experience.

Boxed.com, a New York-based bulk-ordering ecommerce company founded in 2013 by a group of tech pioneers, has been testing, and is finally ready to introduce, two new concepts – Smart StockUp and Concierge – to its ordering platform. Together, they predict what shoppers need and when they’ll need it, as well as fulfill and send an order without any action on the part of the shopper.

Smart StockUp applies machine learning to customer data to predict when shoppers will most likely run low on a particular product, making it simple for reordering.

“If you’re a repeat customer at Boxed, you’ll start seeing recommendations for ‘Need These Now’ and ‘Need These Soon’ products, as Boxed estimates which items you’ll need to buy, so you can just tap or click to add them to your cart,” Will Fong, chief technical officer at Boxed, told Progressive Grocer. “This allows the customer to engage with the shopping experience immediately, without needing to run through a mental checklist of what to stock up on.”

Taking things a step further, Concierge is Boxed’s autonomous shopping concept, which uses machine learning not only to predict when a user is running low, but also to preemptively fulfill the order and send a customer’s product without him or her needing to engage at all. It’s a hands-free shopping concept in which Boxed sends items that users are low on and things the retailer thinks users might like.

“The aim is to take the thinking out of shopping,” Fong explained.

Currently, Boxed is testing Concierge with a select group of business-to-business partners, who are automatically receiving regular shipments of products. Boxed mixes the goods that they need to restock on with “discovery” items, so business-to-business customers can still try out new products.

To date, Boxed hasn’t seen a single Concierge return. The service is still being tested, however, and while Smart StockUp is available for all customers, Concierge won’t roll out more broadly until the fall.

The Future is Autonomous

While the past couple of years have seen ecommerce players adding features such as one-button or voice-enabled ordering, Boxed appears to be looking even further beyond. Fong noted that autonomous shopping “is the future,” and that ecommerce is shifting in a new direction as retailers discover new ways to predict and personalize what customers want to order.

“We understand that some customers may be fine figuring out when they need to buy more snacks and toilet paper, but we do think that many shoppers will embrace Smart StockUp and Concierge as an ultra-convenient way to shop,” he said. “When Boxed customers spend less time going through a mental checklist and adding things to their cart, they have more time to spend on the things in life that really matter.”

And this isn’t the future just for consumers, but also business-to-business shopping, Fong stressed. Since Boxed deals with bulk goods, such technology helps companies take the hassle out of office-sized orders.

“Concierge makes it super-convenient for everyone – from office managers to event planners to small-business owners – to stock up without having to think about what they need and when they need it,” he said.

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