For anyone who hates grocery shopping, home delivery services like Grocery Gateway, smart fridges that detect when you’re out of an item, and startups like Blue Apron that deliver all the ingredients for a home cooked meal are cutting down on the need to actually visit a grocery store. Rather than eliminating the need to grocery shop, Ithaca, NY-based startup Rosie is trying to improve the in-store experience with its web and mobile shopping platform that alerts users when they’re running out of groceries. Founded in September 2012 at Startup Weekend Cornell, the company aims to use predictive technology to save consumers the headache of keeping tabs of what they have in stock, while helping automate the purchasing process via partnerships with local grocers.
Although it hasn’t launched yet, Rosie already has 1,400 signups and has partnered with one local grocer, with four others in the pipeline in time for its April launch in the upstate New York area. Founder and CEO Nick Nickitas had the idea while working on his MBA and constantly running into the hassle of restocking groceries and other household items. “When I came to Cornell…I was working 100+ hours on my MBA, my fridge kept running out of food,” said Nickitas in an interview. “I said man it would be really great if there was a smart fridge that could order my groceries for me.”
When users first sign up for Rosie, they’re prompted to enter their age, sex, location, and number of people in their household, as well as their typical grocery purchases. From there, the backend technology uses predictive algorithms to determine when users will be out of everything from food products like ketchup to household items like toilet paper and toothpaste. It then aggregates several items that will be running out over the next few days and alerts a user, at which point they can then choose to order those items from partner grocery stores nearby.
Rather than having to go in and wait in line, the items are purchased through the mobile or web app, bagged, and ready for pick up so users can bypass actually shopping for the groceries and waiting in line. It has also partnered with local task marketplace TaskRabbit so users can use a TaskRabbit runner to deliver their groceries so they don’t have to go to the store at all. Rosie charges $5.95 for orders made through the app, and is in talks with both small and global CPG companies about providing product advertising through the app.
There are several companies tackling the grocery shopping convenience factor, letting consumers shop online and have their order delivered, namely Grocery Gateway, which just launched a mobile app. In terms of others trying to enter the smart restocking space, Amazon has its ‘subscribe and save’ program, which lets consumers get automatic delivery of items they use frequently, and Alice offers similar out-of-stock notifications, with the option to get products delivered right from the manufacturer rather than a grocer. Nickitas believes Rosie answers a lot of existing deficiencies in those services – he said unlike Alice, Rosie doesn’t provide a notification for each item that may be running out, nor does it ask users to predict how long it takes them to run out of a given item like Amazon, and instead positions itself as a smart app that acts like a personal assistant when it comes to shopping for everyday items.
“For people that really don’t like grocery shopping, or for young students and urban professionals that are super busy or moms, there’s a real pain point,” Nickitas added. “Rosie is super smart at aggregating your order, she’ll look at purchases that are coming, she doesn’t ping you for every item…it’s pretty amazing, people are very consistent when they go to the store.”
Unlike Rosie though, Alice compiles coupons and deals for out-of-stock items, so the company might want to look at how it can not only provide advertising to partners, but deals on products similar to Checkout51 and Spent. The company is already in talks with grocers in the San Francisco area, and since scaling the company will rely entirely on its partnerships with local grocers, the company plans to launch a version with better partner onboarding later this year. The company might want to consider going straight to the manufacturers like Alice to take grocers out of the equation altogether, though that would require either built-in delivery or a more robust partnership with TaskRabbit.
With fridge manufacturers like Samsung and ecommerce companies like Amazon both trying to help consumers shop for household items, it will be interesting to see whether Rosie can scale across the U.S., and whether it truly does save homeowners time when it comes to stocking their fridge.