The fast-delivery boom sent startups soaring during the pandemic, only for them to come crashing down in recent months. But Maria Renz said Gopuff is prepared to get through the slump.
“Gopuff is really well-positioned to weather through those challenges that we expect in the next year or so,” Renz told Protocol. “We're first party, we control elements of our mix, like price, very directly. And again, we have nine years of experience.”
Renz, who joined as Gopuff’s SVP of North America in April, said the company’s nearly 10 years in fast delivery has helped it understand what customers need at their doorstep in minutes, during a pandemic or not. Renz called quick delivery the “modern way” people are buying products now, and that’s been reflected in Gopuff’s sales. Monthly sales grew 391% in May 2022 compared to May 2019, according to data from Bloomberg Second Measure, and sales grew 28% year-over-year.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for fast delivery. Companies including Gopuff, Gorillas and Buyk have either laid off employees, left markets or closed entirely in recent months. Gopuff, which has raised $4 billion at a $15 billion valuation, was preparing to go public by mid-2022 back in December, but the company declined to confirm its current timeline when asked.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
You've been in this position since mid-April. What's been most exciting about your new role?
Oh my gosh, there's lots of excitement. It’s being in a company that is experiencing significant growth. It's a young company, a really smart, high-energy team. And we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us. And so I've just been really enjoying the last two months getting to know the team and really understanding what our customers are looking for. And the combination has been great.
Is there anything that surprised you about your role?
I think the surprising thing is there haven't been a whole lot of surprises. What you see is what you get. The founders are young, super smart, insightful. They started this business nine years ago, and they took a lot of time to think through unit economics before scaling it. So [fast delivery] seems like a recent phenomenon, but there's a lot of depth there, and understanding of the business and how to scale.
There's a lot of discussion about fast delivery companies coming down from pandemic highs. What's your view on what's happening to the space right now?
I can’t speak for the space, but speaking for Gopuff, we're seeing tremendous growth, even post-pandemic. I think the company did a tremendous job through the pandemic delivering for customers. For example, we added baby and home products because we saw that customers were searching for these items. We partnered with local brands and cities who were pivoting their own businesses and trying to figure out a way forward.
All of that really helped to build that relationship with customers through COVID. If you're there with them through a challenging time, we're seeing that they come back even after COVID, and for us, our offering is really the modern way people want to live their lives. They want to have flexibility in terms of, “Hey, I'm looking for Tylenol,” or, “I want to pick up some groceries, and I can do that at the spur of the moment and receive those goods in minutes.” And so that flexibility has been super appreciated.
The number of fast-delivery startups has grown over the past couple of years. How has Gopuff been able to differentiate itself from others?
Photo: Maria Renz
As I said, we've been around for nine years, and the founders took a lot of time early on thinking about the business model and that we are a first-party business model, meaning we buy and inventory all the product ourselves. That means we have a lot of control over what we offer our customers: When it's on our website, we know we have it in stock, we know we can price it sharply and we can deliver it very quickly. We operate in over 1,400 markets, so we're incredibly close to our customers. So that level of ownership is unique.
And in addition, we've taken the time to invest in, for example, liquor licenses. So in most of the markets we operate, we have a full assortment of beer, wine and spirits, and that also is a significant differentiator, both from a customer and from a business perspective.
And we're always listening to what our customers are looking for. We just added private label goods, which is our own brand. We launched a pizza called “Mean Tomato.”
I've also seen some discussion about how fast delivery is going to be put to the test, or this need for speed will be put to the test this year. Does Gopuff see its business model changing as people return to some sense of normalcy?
I think there are a lot of macroeconomic trends that are challenging across the board. But I believe that Gopuff is really well-positioned to weather through those challenges.
In the early years, we were profitable for the first three years of the business, because the founders took the time to deeply understand unit economics before scaling. We also have a strong balance sheet. So to me, the experience of being very careful in the early innings to understand those unit economics, combined with a strong balance sheet and our first-party positioning, is a great combination to weather through the next couple of years.
What are your plans for growing Gopuff? What are your goals for your position?
I lead North America retail, which means specifically the merchandising, marketing and product teams. We are super happy. We just relaunched the app, a new version of the app, which we've seen makes it much more shoppable. And we've seen consumers react really positively to that. So we'll obviously continue to enhance the shopping experience.
We're going to fill in selection, where we see our customers asking for product. We launched beer in New York City [recently], which we believe will be super popular to be able to order cold beer in 30 minutes and have it delivered in 30 minutes in the middle of July. We think it’s a great combination for our customers. We're going to launch CBD in a matter of weeks in certain markets. And again, that's based on what we saw in terms of search on our site.
And so our plan for the next year is to really continue listening to our customers, really understanding how they want to live their life, and then challenging ourselves: How do we add that selection? What new markets do we need to go to in order to expand our offering and continue doing what we're doing?