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OPINIONTechnology/Services

GoPuff Is Coming for Your Business

Why retailers should take it more seriously
Photograph courtesy of goPuff

CHICAGO At the recent 2019 Convenience Retailing University (CRU) in Orlando, Fla., there was a lot of talk of Amazon Go.

And why not? In addition to revolutionizing the checkout process, Amazon’s no-checkout store has pushed many other retailers and tech startups to innovate. The list includes Kroger, Walmart, H-E-B and plenty of convenience stores. The e-retailer has made huge waves in multiple industries, and it’s opened only 10 locations.

But goPuff is probably a greater threat to c-stores—at least those in urban markets near college campuses. This might seem like an odd statement, especially because Amazon Go is constantly grabbing headlines, and reports indicate Amazon plans to open 3,000 locations by 2021. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that Amazon never technically confirmed plans to open that many stores by that time. In fact, the company has confirmed very little about plans for Amazon Go’s future.

I also argued at CRU that the number of Amazon Go locations does not matter to convenience stores. The “just walk out” stores have already pushed the entire concept of retail in America to innovate. If Amazon does indeed open more Amazon Go locations, other retailers will be ready to meet it with frictionless concepts of their own, as seen from tech companies such as Skip Checkout, Zippin, Standard Cognition and more.

Also, Amazon Go does not exist to put c-stores out of business. The team behind Amazon Go does not even think of the concept as a c-store. The Amazon Go team released the concept because they thought it would be cool if people didn’t have to wait in line at physical stores, and then they set out to build it. This is the kind of crazy side adventure you can go on when you’re part of the largest company on earth.

GoPuff, on the other hand, is built entirely on the theory that c-stores are inconvenient in today’s smartphone-centric world, and that plenty of people, especially college students, would prefer to have c-store items delivered to them in 30 minutes for an extra $1.95 instead of traveling to the nearest convenience store.

The founders of goPuff, Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev, were students at Drexel University in Philadelphia when they founded the concept in 2013. They launched the company because they were tired of driving their college friends who didn’t have cars to nearby stores.

By 2017, the founders were on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Retail and Commerce. Today, goPuff is live in 55 markets, and it relentlessly targets c-stores in its marketing, aimed squarely at millennials and Gen Z. The e-delivery company has called c-stores “nasty” on Twitter. It even launched a huge marketing push in 2018 leading up to the unofficial cannabis holiday known as 4/20, telling stoners to avoid the judgment of convenience stores and order their munchies from goPuff instead.

At least Amazon Go is encouraging people to walk into physical stores. Meanwhile, goPuff is telling people those stores are nasty.

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