Boxed allows online shoppers to to find the same kinds of deals you'd get at a wholesale retailer like Costco. Now it wants to help you avoid that awkward moment when you realize you're all out of toilet paper.
Co-founder and CTO William Fong said that last week, the company released a new feature called SmartStockup to about a quarter of its users, and it's in the process of rolling this out to everyone. The idea is to take Boxed data about shoppers and use it to anticipate when they're going to need to buy more snacks, napkins, toilet paper and so on.
In other words, if you're a repeat visitor at Boxed, you should start seeing recommendations for "Need These Now" and "Need These Soon" products. If Boxed guessed correctly and you do want to buy them, you can just tap or click to add them to your cart.
"Another way you can think about it is if you had a virtual shopper assistant," Fong said. He acknowledged that some customers might be perfectly fine on their own figuring out when they need to buy more toilet paper, but he predicted that others will embrace it as "this ultra-convenient way to shop" that "really unlocks time savings."
In order to make these recommendations, Fong said Boxed can look at both the purchase history of individual shoppers and broader patterns around when people need to restock. It will also start to ask users a few questions that provide the company with basic demographic data that can help refine the predictions. (Answering the survey questions is helpful, but not required.)
The predictions get smarter over time, as Boxed collects more data about the user, but Fong said you could start to see SmartStockup recommendations as early as the second time you visit Boxed.
He also described the feature as "the first baby step towards autonomous shopping," where a Boxed concierge product can take care of your shopping for you, no user action required.
In fact, the company has already gone further in that direction with a small group of business customers who are testing a system where they automatically receive regular shipments of products from Boxed. (Fong said those shipments mix the goods you need for restocking with "discovery" items, so customers can still try out new products.)
Why test this with businesses first? Fong said there's "a greater margin" for error when you're ordering for a whole office.
"You don't have to be super accurate," he said. "If we send them a little something extra, it's not a big deal."
That's less true for consumers, Fong said. So it may be a while before you can let Boxed handle all your shopping decisions.
If you want more information, or if you want to talk the Boxed team into letting you jump ahead in the line, you can email email@example.com.