By Sonia Su
When you see a man in an orange jumpsuit riding a bike around Boston at one in the morning, the last thing you would think of is cookie delivery. But that is exactly what Sweet Idea founder John Piermarini and his cookie runners do every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night for college students up late and craving sweets.
“We really wanted to appeal to college students and fill in that niche of doing late-night delivery. There are lots of places that do it, but they’re mostly pizza places and burger joints,” Piermarini said.
From cookies to alcohol, food and drink delivery services have been popping up everywhere. Most recently, in late March, Google began testing a free, unlimited same-day delivery service, called Google Shopping Express, for San Francisco Bay Area residents. Shopping Express allows users to order online from select local stores and receive these goods within a specified period of time.
Similarly in the Greater Boston area, Ben Holt founded in 2011 HappySpeedy, operating every night from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. It promises to deliver products found in convenience stores within 30 minutes.
“Getting groceries and convenience goods instantly from the comfort of your home is a great complement to consumer’s new purchasing habits,” Holt said.
The variety of delivery services does not stop there. Boston College graduate Justin Robinson saw a need to make purchasing alcohol a less “annoying, heavy and awkward” process and co-founded Drizly, an alcohol delivery app.
“When ordering multiple bottles of wine, liquor and beer for a party, we save users the hassle of driving, or worse walking, to the store, picking what they want and lugging it back,” Robinson said.
Currently in private alpha to test the system in a controlled environment for feedback, Drizly has been able to fulfill a gap in the market for a convenient and efficient alcohol-delivery platform.
The rapid advances in mobile technology over the last few years have increased the average consumer’s need for instant gratification, Robinson said.
“Need to look up the score of game? Open Safari. Want to find the best Thai food near you? Open Maps. Need to hail a cab? Open Uber,” Robinson said. “The same reason we want sports scores, maps and cabs accessible with just a few taps on our smartphones is the same reason we want convenient food and alcohol delivery. “
Looking deeper into the power of technology, Drizly aims to solve the goal of “ultimate efficiency.”
“As consumers we all see the power that smartphones give us to make daily life, easier, faster and more efficient,” Robinson said. “Every decision ultimately comes down to the opportunity cost of our time.”
But just how valuable are these services to college students?
College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Matthew Zin placed an order via text message late Thursday night for chocolate chip cookies. Although the cookie runner mistook a similarly named dorm for the correct one, David Joseph Ritter still managed to deliver quickly.
“I got a text from them literally 3 minutes after I texted them, and if I lived in Warren like they thought, it would’ve been here just as fast,” Zin said.
College of Engineering sophomore Ethan Knight also ordered the popular chocolate chip cookies the same night, after hearing about the service from his roommate.
The younger demographic, or millennials, contribute the most to the rise in convenience spending, according to a 2012 Technomic Generational consumer trend report. About 32 percent of millennials said they do not have the time to eat food cooked at home, compared to 13 percent of baby boomers.
Millennials are also the most likely generation to use delivery services, according to the report.
Even further, consumers are living in a changing commercial landscape. On-demand delivery is important, because instant service is not only desired but also expected, Holt said.
“Companies like HappySpeedy and others that do not contract couriers are able to maximize efficiency and guarantee a consistent and pleasurable experience to the end user,” Holt said.
Even the rain on Thursday night did not stop Ritter, donning his bright orange jumpsuit with the reflective Sweet Idea logo on the back, from delivering fresh cookies.
“The job is pretty easy, as long as you can bike 20 to 30 miles in a night,” Piermarini said. “But it’s a lot of fun. A lot of our guys enjoy the challenge.”