Poor couriers; judging from the press they are getting, their popularity seems to be close to that of politicians. Over the last few weeks I have been monitoring Twitter and the torrent of complaints against almost every parcel delivery firm is astonishing. Only last week, Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM programme had journalist Sue Hayward and industry watcher Ian Paterson discussing consumers’ frustrations and the apparent inability to reliably get parcels in to people’s hands. I may be controversial here but I have sympathy for the lot of the couriers and I would like to explain my thoughts on why we are where we are, in parcel delivery.
Ecommerce has exploded in the developed world and the UK is by many measures the biggest (per head) online economy. More than a billion parcels were delivered to UK homes last year and hundreds of millions are returned as unwanted purchases. The volume of parcels is growing a c12% per year; an extra 120 million deliveries every year. Just coping with this level of growth would be a struggle for any industry but there are a number of dynamics in the delivery sector that make this particularly challenging.
As customers, we want cheap (or even free) delivery. Why should we pay extra when we have spent ages (or at least several clicks) on the internet looking for the lowest priced goods only to have our sums spoiled by paying for delivery? The commonest reason for the abandonment of online purchases is delivery charges. We don’t like to pay! So consumers exert direct and indirect pressure on retailers to provide bargain basement prices for delivery.
Generally in life, you can have high quality at a high price or a low price and poor quality; you don’t get the best without paying for it. High quality delivery should be expensive; the investment in capacity, spare capacity (in case things go wrong), systems and everything else to ensure great service costs a great deal. Fast/expensive and slow/cheap are both good if they meet the customer expectation or promise. But we don’t like to pay! What this means is that the couriers are working on relatively thin margins; needing to invest heavily to keep up with growth yet still getting bashed over the head for ever-lower prices and higher levels of service. To make it worse, consumers, unhappy with delivery, also vent their spleen at the retailers and they in turn beat-up the poor couriers insisting on lower prices and higher investment.
The pressure on margins has resulted in some firms going to the wall; remember the news of CityLink last Christmas.
The operational challenges faced by couriers are also huge. Customers mostly want parcels delivered to their houses but unfortunately, most of us are out at work for much of the time (actually, usually the same working hours that couriers generally work). Parcels need to be delivered securely, and often need to be signed for…..but we are out at work. So, couriers deliver to our workplace but then our employers start moaning that they are not running a post office, etc. Are the couriers expected to chase around after us to try and deliver our parcels? Well, actually it seems that they are; Audi and DHL are working on a system to track the whereabouts of your car and place parcels in your car boot. If you drive away before they have found you; yes, it will be the couriers fault! Even the sci-fi Amazon drones are reputed to be capable of mid course corrections so they track us down if we change our plans.
Then the couriers need to cope with our roads! Couriers are often self employed and paid per delivery; they spend half their lives sitting in slow or stationary traffic and the other half having to race around in their vans to try and make up time (or is this my imagination?).
Courier firms are genuinely trying to improve their service and reduce the number of failed deliveries. They have invested in tracking technology so we should be able to predict when a delivery is made. Some are offering Sunday deliveries or ‘promising’ to deliver within narrow time slots. But delivering to time slots is incredibly difficult to do efficiently; stories abound of vans parked up doing nothing because they are early.
As I mentioned, most consumers want deliveries to their home but this is not working. To overcome this we can now have our parcels delivered to locker boxes at supermarkets, local newsagents or petrol stations, neighbours or even (and if you think about this, it seems mad), the very shops we tried to avoid in the first place! Surely ecommerce is all about convenience, yet Click and Collect from stores is one of the fastest growing categories for parcel collection.
So we come back to the core issue. Consumers want fast, cheap and to their doorstep. How can this impossible circle be squared? If we stayed at home all of the time and ‘promised’ the couriers we would always be there for every delivery it would make a massive difference to their ability to deliver efficiently. No more timed deliveries, no more ‘sorry we missed you’ cards through our letter box and delivery routes designed for the shortest driving distance for the courier; no more zig-zagging between different priorities and time slots (hey, we could even save CO2 emissions).
Well, the world is about to change. Someone has invented a stay-at-home parcel receiver, and no, it is not a minimum wage student! Pelipod is the world’s most advanced home parcel delivery box. It uses clever technology to safely, securely and reliably be there to receive all of your parcel deliveries at your home whether you are in or out and do this 24/7, rain or shine. It takes a photograph of the parcel when it is delivered and even sends you an email to confirm safe receipt.
Pelipod also offers the ability for consumers to have the slow, cheaper delivery (thus saving against the cost of a Pelipod). What Pelipod gives is “certainty” and that is critical. It does all of this again for parcel collections for those returned items.
If we all had Pelipods, the life of a courier would be very different. He or she could get up in the morning and drive at a reasonable speed on a direct route to include all his/her drop off’s in the most logical eco-friendly fashion. We would get an email confirming safe delivery and would get home to a Pelipod stuffed full of our shopping. Then we could spend the evening arranging for all the clothes we bought that don’t fit us (I’m sure I was a size XXX) to be returned.
Luckily, Pelipod can manage your returns as well! Has proper ecommerce service just arrived?