• on Oct 5th, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 3 comments

    Pretty soon, Americans will have no reason to leave their homes. We can order everything online and have it delivered to our doors – even groceries. That’s good news for package delivery companies, if not for Americans’ Vitamin D intake.

    Attention has centered lately on grocery delivery, with the U.S. Postal Service unveiling its plans to get in the game. The Postal Service recently asked the Postal Regulatory Commission to let it expand its test with Amazon into a broader 2-year test available to other retailers. Under the test, retailers would drop off their grocery orders in color-schemed tote bags at local post offices between 1:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Postal officials would map out the day’s deliveries and then city carrier assistants would load the trucks and deliver the totes between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., leaving them at front doors. The carriers would use iPhones to scan for tracking purposes.

    Given Americans’ love affair with food, grocery delivery seems like a safe bet. But it’s a fragmented market and some players already have a foothold in certain cities. Peapod, Instacart, and Fresh Direct are fairly well-established in some locations and work with many of the big name grocery stores. Walmart with its Walmart to Go and Safeway are testing delivery of groceries from their own stores in select cities.

    Still the Postal Service, with its local presence and national reach, brings expertise as a delivery company to the table. Its ability to “dynamically route” the deliveries each day based on supply also helps. That is, it can adjust deliveries and routes as needed to achieve the greatest route density, which is critical to success. Further, this service would allow the Postal Service to use delivery vehicles when they normally sit idle, although extra wear and tear on its aging fleet could prove problematic.

    If the Postal Service gets the pricing right, it could entice some retailers to give the service a try. But pricing is a big question: Can the Postal Service price it right? The market test should help answer some other questions: Will bags of groceries left unattended in the early morning hours be susceptible to theft? Has the Postal Service waited too long to enter the market? Or does its delivery expertise and presence in every community give the Postal Service a competitive advantage? 

  • on Mar 31st, 2014 in Delivery & Collection | 6 comments

    That ethereal voice was enough for Ray Kinsella to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams. But is this approach a sound business model for same-day delivery providers? It seems to be the model they are following: provide same-day delivery in anticipation that customers will eventually consider it standard practice – and actually want it.

    Study after study shows consumers shop online mainly because of low prices and free delivery. Consumers consistently rank “fast shipping” toward the bottom of their reasons for returning to an e-tailer’s website. And yet e-tailers, brick-and-mortar stores, startups, and even the U.S. Postal Service have embarked on the quest to provide same-day delivery service.

    Amazon, Nordstrom, and Walmart are among retailers offering same-day delivery in select markets for orders placed by a certain time. Startups such as Deliv and Instacart are getting in on the action, providing same-day delivery services for retailers in malls or for grocery stores. And, in an interesting convergence, eBay and Google have partnered with traditional retailers not only to deliver their products within hours of a receiving an order, but also to sell them online through consumer-friendly platforms.

    The Postal Service stepped into this market with a short-lived pilot project in San Francisco and now a refined test in New York City. FedEx and UPS do not appear to be jumping in wholly with a same-day service aimed at the retail e-commerce channel, instead offering individual customers some a la cart same-day options.

    Overall, the prices providers are charging for same-day delivery range from about $6 to $10. This is roughly in line with the value consumers place on these services, according to surveys. The price point is good news for consumers, but raises questions about same-day delivery’s sustainability. According to some analysts, many of the same-day services are money losers. Still, as the late Steve Jobs understood well, consumers’ preferences change as offerings are refined. Demand for same-day delivery could increase in the future, which means those already in the market could have an advantage over late entrants.

    Share your thoughts on same-day delivery service. Is this something you want? Are you willing to pay extra for it? If so, how much and for what types of products? Where is the best opportunity for the Postal Service in this market?