It’s happened to everyone. You need a relatively innocuous household item like dish soap, and despite frequent visits to stores and websites where it is easy to purchase dish soap, you walk out of every store or check out of every virtual storefront every time without it. It starts off as mildly irritating and ends when your family starts questioning why you are actively trying to force them to wash plates with shampoo.
The simple truth for why this happens is that the vast majority of consumers simply don’t grocery shop with a list. Which is not to say American grocery shopping is unfocused or uninformed — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. In the age of mobile, people research products in real time while they are shopping for them, often use recipes as guides while buying groceries and have an incredible wealth of mobile tools literally at their fingertips by which to organize their grocery shopping. Americans think and strategize about their groceries a whole bunch.
What fewer than 20 percent do is make a list, take it to a store with them and use it to guide their shopping. Which some experts think isn’t all that bad. Consumers, they believe, are generally better served to let their purchasing decisions be driven by the variety of saving opportunities available as they stroll the aisles and are increasingly pinged by deals and promotions before and during their grocery shopping experience.
Which may be true but doesn’t solve the problem of that forgotten item that at some point in time becomes a real pain point.
Solving for that consumer is what motivated the creation of Boston-based grocery delivery startup Just Baguette. Sunny Long — Just Baguette’s founder and "dream alchemist" — like many of the entrepreneurs we speak to at PYMNTS, got into business to solve his own problem. As an MIT engineering/computer science student who often rolled into a grocery store at the tail end of a bunch of other activities, he often found himself returning home without whatever it was he actually needed from the store that may have prompted his visit in the first place.
Long turned his attention to the grocery delivery model — an area that’s admittedly already fairly crowded and has a fairly diverse body of players. Food is one of the few actual human necessities and one that is primarily accounted for by most Americans through grocery purchases. Grocery delivery removes the main pain point associated with grocery shopping. Let’s face it, almost no one over the age of 7 really likes going to the grocery store. That said, grocery delivery is already a competition between long-established players like Peapod, well-capitalized technologists like Google, eCommerce overlords like Amazon and popular favorite startups like Instacart — and that’s a daunting marketplace for an up-and-comer like Just Baguette to step into.
But Just Baguette comes at it with an extra feature: algorithms that learn and keep track of the customer's purchasing habits that are essentially designed to take over the list-writing part of grocery shopping.
Did you really expect anything less from an MIT-educated founder?
“Between the algorithms in place and the added element of human touch, it’s pretty accurate. The feedback has been that people are surprised in a good way. They’ll say, ‘I didn’t think of putting oranges on my list, but it’s a great idea,' or 'Right, we are out of eggs, we need eggs,'” Long noted in an interview with Bostino. “We are shooting for a magical grocery shopping experience.”
Behind the magic, the tech first relies on users to self report on their habits and the preferences of their household — how many people, how many meals, what the basic breakdown of the meals are fruit/vegetable/dairy-wise. Users can also help the system by uploading previous reciepts, though that is not necessary. From that information, Just Baguette’s system spits back a curated list of groceries that it will shop from after consumers approve. Users can accept the list as is or swipe in different items from Just Baguette’s grocery catalog.
Once the curated list is approved, the service turns it into a grocery run that is then delivered to the customer.
“We work in collaboration with local stores to turn our list into the appropriate bag of groceries for the user,” Long noted. “So far, we see that after a few weeks, customers are generally approving our lists with at most one or two substitutions.”
Groceries are approved and delivered weekly. The service costs $8 per month, which covers delivery costs.
Just Baguette is very new to the market. As of writing, it is launching beta tests in Boston and its neighboring Cambridge suburb where the business is currently housed within MIT. The startup is currently an entirely bootstrapped operation but will be seeing seed funds this fall. The focus this summer in its early launching days is to work in partnership with a local housing complex to sign up buildings of people for grocery delivery.
It’s not an easy marketplace Just Baguette is jumping into. Judging by competition alone, it almost doesn’t get harder. And Long says he knows it will be a tough road and probably a tough sell, but he remains buoyant.
But there is always room in the marketplace if you can do something better, smarter and faster — and Just Baguette can do all of those things and then deliver the results to your door.
Can’t argue with that.