Boxed, an online wholesaler of bulk-sized essentials and grocery products, has been dubbed the “Costco for Millennials” due to its focus on a young, tech-savvy audience. In early 2018, the company will seek to live up to that billing with the launch of three new customer-facing technologies within its online and mobile experiences, including:
- Augmented Reality (AR) View using the Apple ARKit framework;
- A Facebook Messenger chatbot; and
- Group ordering, enabling shoppers to share links and even split the bill through Venmo.
The wholesaler is known for being on the “bleeding edge” with new technologies. Boxed fully automated its New Jersey fulfillment center by introducing nearly two miles of conveyor belts and autonomous guided vehicles (self-driving carts) to transport goods. Now, the Boxed team is focused on enhancing its shopping experience.
“The new features aren’t directly tied to each other, but they do play into the narrative that Boxed is trying to figure out easier and better ways for our customers to stay stocked up,” said Will Fong, CTO of Boxed in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “I don’t believe it’s about having one killer feature, it’s about elevating the whole value of the product through the culmination of all these different features.”
AR View Brings Products Into Your Pantry
With the Boxed iOS app, AR View lets shoppers view its wholesale products and compare sizes against other products to see how they could fit within their pantry.The initiative is starting out with 30 products, but could expand based on customer response.
“AR is a great bridge between the digital and the physical space,” said Fong. “There are the practical uses of understanding the size constraints, and how a product fits within those constraints. There’s also another element, where it helps enforce the brand message — that when a shopper buys from Boxed, they’re getting more value in the long run. Being able to interact with a product in a way where it’s almost real gives a sense of immersion that might not be apparent in the digital world today.”
Facebook Messenger Gives Shoppers A Virtual Assistant
Additionally, Boxed developed a chatbot on Facebook Messenger named “Bulky,” which is designed to enable shoppers to track their orders, build their baskets and discover new products. Integrated with the company’s Smart StockUp feature, Bulky uses a machine learning algorithm to determine what items the shopper is low on, giving them the chance to easily reorder. Shoppers can ask the bot customer service questions such as: “What is my order status?”
“Messengers serves as a virtual assistant,” Fong said. “The bot that we built comes in two flavors wrapped underneath one skin. One is helping customers who may have questions or wonder if there is an issue with the order. They can easily snap a picture and the bot will respond immediately, and then someone from the customer service team will reach out. Then the other side is more fun — engaging this personal assistant to recommend your product. I don’t think a customer is necessarily going to add eight to 10 items through a bot, but if we get them interested enough to add one or two things, then eventually go to the site or app to finish the order, I think that’s a very successful scenario.”
Group Ordering Lets Shoppers Share Cart, Add Items
The third new feature, group ordering, is designed primarily for households and businesses. Shoppers can share the link to the shopping cart with others, and all parties can see who is paying for each item, and automatically split the bill via Venmo payment.
The person who builds the shopping cart must complete the checkout, but the other shoppers can add and delete items and invite more shoppers.
“There’s a common scenario when my wife and I order from Boxed, in which we’ll keep asking ‘What else do we need from Boxed?’ after opening a cart,” Fong said. “Often, the experiences of just buying groceries or buying toilet paper or any everyday item you need to get through life, are usually often collaborative.”