Launched in 2012 — and cleverly named after the robot housekeeper on “The Jetsons” — online grocery app Rosie allows customers to shop online from their favorite local stores for same-day delivery or in-store pickup. In addition to e-commerce, Rosie provides retailers with delivery opportunities, omnichannel marketing and deep data services. Since its founding, Rosie’s mission has been to bring online grocery to Main Street or, as co-founder and CEO Nick Nickitas says, “Let's make it as easy to shop online, from a local store, as it would be to shop on Amazon or Walmart.”
As online grocery has exploded nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic, Rosie was no exception, according to Nickitas. “We're seeing, on average, a 15X increase in online sales, in each one of our retail partners,” he said. “To put it in context, prior to COVID, Rosie was somewhere between 1% and 3% of a store’s sales. During this crisis, online shopping, powered by Rosie, has been somewhere between 15% and 22% of the stores that we're working with. So you're talking about a maximum amount of growth.”
He added, “We've moved from a demand-constrained environment, that is where we’re trying to get more customers to try online, to a supply-constrained environment, the constraints being inventory and labor. We’ve done a lot over the past eight weeks, to try to help retailers navigate through this period.”
For many small, independent operators the learning curve to getting online is a challenge. At Rosie, Nickitas said, “What we found is, that retailers learn best and fastest when they're learning from their peers And so, one of the strategies that we use is connecting new retailers on our platform to leading independent retailers across the country. We do this either through webinars or through our customer success team, because by sharing the knowledge across given geographic area or a wholesaler, you're going to have retailers be more successful.”
Online demand continues to grow for independents, but Nickitas thinks that these smaller businesses are in a good position to handle that volume, perhaps even better than large online retailers like Amazon and Walmart.
“I think one of the things that's really interesting with the local independent operators is that, they're just more flexible and attractive to shoppers,” he said. “We saw retailers that were changing slot capacity, changing inventory, changing pricing strategies, communications managing sometimes multiple times a day. And these strategies were very hyperlocal and this was based on what was going on in that community. I think at a time where people are going through crisis and look to communities, look for our communities to engage locally. So the independents maybe did not have the same kind of resources that some of these larger, national providers had going into the crisis, but also they've been able to more flexibly adapt in response.”
Nickitas noted that with an estimated 80% of consumers trying online grocery for the first time during the month of April, the omnichannel shopping experience is likely here to stay. “Historically there’s been this perception that there's an online customer and there's an in-store customer and never shall the two meet,” he said. That may no longer be the case as customers try new digital tools for the first time.
“I think that coming out of this pandemic, whenever an antiviral or vaccine comes in, that people will continue to take advantage of the digital tools and they're going to blend it seamlessly into their lives,” said Nickitas. “Creating a seamless experience across online and in-store becomes increasingly important.”