Last year, Google acquired Waterloo-based startup BufferBox, which provides shipping locker service to make it easy to get things delivered reliably even when you’re not sure where you’ll be when they’re arriving. The startup built its service on the idea that people never want to see another missed delivery door tag ever again, and began rolling out availability in Toronto, a big consumer market near its HQ last year.
BufferBox is now venturing further afield (as teased earlier this year), with a program expansion in San Francisco that takes its kiosk service closer to Google’s home territory. The BufferBox model allows local businesses to essentially become a substitute post office, receiving packages on behalf of BufferBox users during business hours when they’re guaranteed to have someone on staff to accept delivery. Members then get an email notification as soon as the package as delivered so they know when to go to the local business and grab it.
In SF, BufferBox locations include Dogpatch Cafe, Coffee Bar, Noe Hill Market, 7-Eleven, Mission: Comics and Art and more. The service is also tied to Google’s recent Shopping Express service expansion, which allows people in the SF area to get their packages on the same day they place their order.
This marks the first sign of new market expansion since the acquisition of BufferBox last year, which cost the search giant a reported $17 million. At the time, Google said its motivation in acquiring the startup was to help “remove as much friction as possible from the shopping experience, while helping consumers save time and money.” Paired with its same-day service, the BufferBox experience definitely contributes to that ultimate goal, by making shopping online as easy as popping down to the coffee shop on the corner on your way home from work.
Google’s BufferBox business competes in many ways with Amazon’s Locker pick-up service, but the Google version now going live in SF tweaks the model by having humans handle package acceptance, and it has the added benefit of driving foot traffic to local stores. Google is taking its time with the rollout, however, which usually means there’s a lot to work out with the economics of the model before scaling it to any kind of wide coverage. BufferBox says to expect more integration, and more geographic expansion in the future, however.