Did this startup make a big mistake calling itself Bodega?
Two former Google employees are hoping to reinvent convenience retailing with plans to roll out thousands of automated vending machines near apartments, offices, dorms, gyms and other consumer centers.
The concept, named Bodega, makes use of unmanned, five-foot-wide pantries each filled with about 100 nonperishable items tailored to local needs. A Bodega box inside an apartment complex, for instance, may feature laundry detergent, toilet paper and pasta, but machine learning promises to constantly reassess the most-needed 100 items.
Customers unlock the box using the company’s app, linked to their credit card. Cameras track what’s taken and the customer is charged. When an item is bought, a signal is sent for it to be restocked.
Paul McDonald, a co-founder, told TechCrunch that, until now, “There’s really only been two options: you can go to the store or you can order something online. What we’re trying to do is introduce a third option, a new way of buying things. Shrink the store, bring the best parts in a smaller form factor and bring it to where you are.”
Retailer-specific vending machines are also a possibility, such as a Home Depot box near a construction site or a Staples box inside an office building.
“Eventually, centralized shopping locations won’t be necessary because there will be 100,000 Bodegas spread out, with one always 100 feet away from you,” Mr. McDonald told Fast Company.
The start-up has created controversy with its name. Bodega is a description used for the many small stores in urban areas that would be hurt most should such automated concepts prove successful. Mr. McDonald denied his company intended to put traditional bodegas out of business in a blog post.
To some, the kiosks are missing the ability to serve hot or cold items, sell items such as lottery tickets and cigarettes, and lack a human connection. Still, internet-connected vending machines are more pervasive in other countries and are expected to replace many store functions.
Michael Kasavana, a former professor at Michigan State and a researcher on automated merchandising systems, told The New York Times, “Americans have shown that they’re not afraid to do self-service, whether it be at the gas pump, replacing banking or online purchases.”
- Putting the relevant slice of the store 100 feet away with Bodega – Bodega
- So, about our name… – Bodega
- Bodega raises $2.5M to build a smart store kiosk in your apartment building – TechCrunch
- Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete – Fast Company
- Can a Vending Machine Replace a Bodega? A Start-Up’s Plans Draw Fire – The New York Times
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the pros and cons of the Bodega vending machine concept? How do you feel about the name? To what degree do you see internet-connected vending machines replacing traditional retail?