GoPuff, the on-demand delivery company, is expanding to two more millennial-rich areas: Ardmore and Bethlehem.
The start-up founded by former Drexel students and roommates Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev, both 24, targets university enclaves where it can provide customers with such household mainstays as paper towels, snacks, and even beer in certain markets, from its local warehouses.
Ilishayev said Ardmore, with nearby Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, Rosemont College, and Villanova University, and Bethlehem, home to Lehigh University, tie in perfectly to their strategy of targeting promising markets outside the city limits.
“We really go where our core customers are and where it really makes sense to open,” Ilishayev said. “Our plans are to double down outside the Philly market. It’s sort of manifest destiny — to expand from coast to coast and for us to put the pedal to the metal in 2018.”
Ardmore and Bethlehem are the 25th and 26th markets for the company. Deliveries in both markets will begin Jan. 26 from noon until 4:30 a.m.
In July 2016, GoPuff opened a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Roxborough that also delivered to Manayunk, Bala Cynwyd, and St. Joseph’s University. Last May, it doubled its coverage in Northeast Philly. And last year, the company opened a giant warehouse just north of Center City.
GoPuff now boasts more than 3,000 products, including pet collars, batteries, toothpaste, and potato chips. Its employee base has grown from 40 full-time employees two years ago to 250 today, plus an army of drivers who work as independent contractors.
“GoPuff has grown exponentially in Philadelphia since launching in 2013,” Gola said Monday. “We’re excited to expand to Ardmore and Lehigh Valley and hope to continue this expansion further in the future.”
Besides Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley, GoPuff currently serves more than 20 other major U.S. markets, both big cities and quintessential college towns, including Pittsburgh; State College; Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Bloomington, Ind., Champaign, Ill., Chicago; Denver; and Newark, Del.
GoPuff also offers alcohol delivery in 11 markets, including Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Syracuse, N.Y.; Tucson, Ariz., and Washington.
“We usually expand in pockets that are geographically close to each other,” Ilishayev said. “It’s a true regression model based on several factors, including the enrollment base, amount of requests, average snowfall, etc. It’s more a science than art — of batching the markets together and launching in geographic areas that are close together.”
Ilishayev said GoPuff made a killing during the final week of December and first week of January. It explains why “average snowfall” and “weather deviation” are among the criteria when picking expansion spots.
“We were very, very busy,” Ilishayev said. “We are big fans of inclement weather in all cities we deliver in. Business in all of them was off the charts.”
And GoPuff isn’t just adjusting to the changing retail landscape — it’s disrupting it.
“We’ve created a whole new shopping experience, where you call when you need us most,” Ilishayev said. “That was our whole vision, to redefine the way people shop inherently, and it’s really focused on the digital world of impulse shopping.”
Once an order is placed on the GoPuff app, the company charges a flat $1.95 delivery charge, which is waived for orders over $49, with zero surcharges.
Average delivery time is 25 minutes. In college towns, it is 15 to 20 minutes.
“We’re trying to get the consistency in delivery right,” Ilishayev said. The goal for 2018 “is get the delivery really tight within a five- to seven-minute deviation every time for customers to rely on us, day in and day out.”
Another goal is to introduce more local products and create a new category of goods, he said.
“Once people order, they get hooked because it’s so convenient and so affordable,” he said. “Everyone has a busy life and it gets busier and busier. We want to create more time in a person’s day, which goes a long way. We want to be a best friend to a person’s life.”