In its ongoing fight against Amazon and Walmart, Boxed is betting on an unlikely feature: humans.
In an effort to add a personal touch to online shopping, the e-commerce site, which sells grocery and home products in bulk, will launch what it calls a “Momcierge” at the beginning of April. The 24/7 operation is similar to a chatbot, but instead of a robot answering questions, humans will respond to Boxed customers via text messages and direct messages on Boxed.com and the Boxed app.
The service is aimed at retaining Boxed’s largest audience segment: millennial moms. Like most e-commerce brands, the majority of Boxed’s consumers are women, and on top of that, the majority of people who buy in bulk are families. The Momcierge will only be available to mothers who use Boxed. Boxed is able to determine whether or not someone is a mother based on the products they have purchased in the past.
Besides functioning as a full-time service portal, the Momcierge will also be able to predict when a mom will need items that have a consistent purchase cycle, such as diapers and wipes, and place their order on their behalf.
Ashish Prashar, vp of communications at Boxed, said the Momcierge adds a needed personal touch to the fragmented and frustrating world of online shopping.
“As easy as e-commerce brands like Amazon, Walmart and us are making online shopping, we want to take that to the next level and help people make decisions about key products in life,” said Prashar. “And we want to make sure people get that same advice on the same platform where they are making that order.”
Momcierge is similar to Boxed’s existing Smart Stockup technology, which uses artificial intelligence and consumer data to predict when consumers will run out of certain items. The AI-powered technology is an important differentiator for Boxed because around 70 percent of its users reorder the same items. So far, said Prashar, Smart Stockup has worked the best with businesses that refill their kitchens with snacks every week. The Momcierge service came about because Boxed found that out of all audience segments, moms demonstrate the most consistency when reordering products.
Still, said Prashar, people aren’t “an exact science” and will often switch from product to product, thanks to the diversity of options. Boxed itself has expanded its product lineup in the past six months, adding items from brands like The Honest Co. and Plum Organics. In fact, the launch of ‘Momcierge’ is timed to the introduction of Boxed’s new partnership with P&G. On March 25, the platform will begin selling P&G’s new line of diapers and wipes, the Pampers Pure Collection, items that Boxed has no doubt will be popular with mothers.
The Momcierge also allows Boxed to get new items in front of moms that they might have missed as they were shopping online. However, Prashar said Boxed will not work with any of its partners to promote their products through the Momcierge because that would ultimately ruin the purpose of the service being customer-centric.
The team that will work on Boxed’s Momcierge will have experience with every parent-related product available on Boxed.com and be able to answer questions that go beyond what a regular chatbot can answer, said Prashar, such as questions about price fluctuations, what products they use personally and how certain products feel or taste. Boxed’s internal advisory parenting team of seven people will provide some of the knowledge.
“We would love a chatbot to be able to understand everything that a mom is going through,” said Prashar, “but the reality is that the technology isn’t there right now, and new parents are going through one of the more exciting yet craziest times in their lives. We see a real opportunity to support and simplify through personalized technology.”