The light bulb moment that would launch Julian Gleizer into the grocery world happened in 2014, when he was helming a startup in the daily deals space. As an entrepreneur, Gleizer was clocking long hours: six or seven days a week until late in the evenings. He was also tending to his father, who was ill at the time.
“Every day after work, I had to go to the grocery store and pick up the essentials [for my father],” says Gleizer. “And I just wished there was a service that allowed me to go online, order groceries and have them delivered to him quickly. That service didn’t really exist.”
There was one grocery delivery service in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) at the time but it didn’t offer same-day delivery. Gleizer’s vision was built around the need for speed: groceries delivered to people’s doorsteps in as little as one hour. After Gleizer’s daily deals startup was acquired in May 2014, he began developing the technology and platform for InstaBuggy, which he launched the following April.
Here’s how it works: customers enter their postal code on Instabuggy.com or on the company’s mobile app and its nearby retail partners—including FreshCo, Sobeys Urban Fresh, Costco, Pet Smart and Coppa’s Fresh Market, as well as the LCBO in Ontario—will pop up. Customers can shop from multiple stores at the same time if they like, and have all their purchases delivered in one order.
InstaBuggy currently operates across the GTA, and recently expanded to Ottawa and Vancouver. Next on the expansion list are Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal. “Once we scale out across Canada, the plan is to enter the U.S. market,” says Gleizer.
It’s an ambitious vision, but Gleizer has the entrepreneurial chops to make it happen. “I was involved in the family export business from the age of 15, so I always had that entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to succeed,” he says. “My parents immigrated from Russia and I saw them working very hard to provide and give me the opportunity to grow and succeed in Canada.”
Hard work and long hours have helped make his latest venture a success, as has his commitment to continually evolve and improve. For example, InstaBuggy initially had a markup of roughly 30% to 35% on groceries. In September, the company launched a new pricing model that eliminates markups, so prices are similar to what customers find in-store, including sale prices. “We realized that as opposed to having a niche market, and in order to scale successfully, we would need to go to in-store pricing.”
Customers now pay a flat “picking, packing and delivery” fee of $19.98 on every order, with no minimum purchase required. For those shopping at multiple stores, there’s a $9.99 fee for each additional store, while the delivery fee for LCBO orders is $19.99.
Another step in InstaBuggy’s evolution is creating partnerships with consumer packaged goods companies such as Conagra Brands and Unilever. “CPGs can essentially get directly to the consumer now and advertise or do sponsored promotions,” says Gleizer. One recent promotion by Conagra, for instance, featured summertime barbecue recipes that incorporated its VH Sauces.
While a number of grocery chains are now offering their own delivery services, Gleizer says what makes InstaBuggy unique is it allows consumers to shop multiple stores at the same time and have everything delivered in one order. And, if new online grocery players enter the market, Gleizer believes InstaBuggy’s relationship with its customers will make it stand out. “It’s the trust factor. We’re very transparent and have no hidden fees,” he says. “The experience is also very personalized in terms of having a personal shopper who is constantly communicating with the customer, for example, if substitutes need to be offered.”
The appeal for many InstaBuggy customers is eliminating the “chore” aspect of grocery shopping. “It’s much easier when everything is brought directly to your doorstep,” says Gleizer. “We go as far as bringing it into your kitchen and helping out. If you’re disabled, we’ll put the groceries into your fridge. So, we do provide that white-glove service.”
Photography by Jaime Hogge