Package Delivery 2.0

Sexteto Veritango
I spent last weekend at the Brussels Tango Festival, mostly taking pictures of people dancing. Because of the lack of light that is typical for tango events, I had bought a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens online one week before. First at Pixmania, but because they couldn’t deliver fast enough (product not in stock), I cancelled and ordered at Foto Konijnenberg. I expected the package to be delivered in a couple of days. When I didn’t see any sign of delivery and the track&trace URL didn’t work, I contacted Foto Konijnenberg (very friendly and correct customer support, by the way) to ask what was happening. Apparently the transport company had been at my door twice, did however not leave any message, took the package back and at that moment no one could tell me where the package was. We’re now 2 weeks after purchase and still at the same stage: my lens is somewhere in the purgatory between vendor and buyer but the transport company (TNT/DPD) has no clue where.

Apart from the fact that the transporter screwed up their tracking of the package, the whole process of showing up at closed doors and going back seems so inefficient. It’s like so much effort has been spent to smoothen out the process of purchasing online, but the physical delivery still works basically the same as twenty years ago, eventhough the drivers now have wireless devices and you have to sign on an electronic sensor.

Let’s describe how I would have preferred to have my goods delivered:

Package Delivery 2.0

  • When the order ships:
    From: Vendor Customer Support
    To: Peter
    Subject: Your purchase of 22/3/2007
    Dear Mr. Forret,
    
    we thank you for your business! 
    We have just prepared your order and released it for delivery.
    
    The transport will be taken care of by NewDelivery Inc, 
    and you can expect an email from them shortly 
    to allow you to choose the delivery options.
    
    Your package number is #34556554456 and
    you can track it from this moment onwards(*) on
    http://track.newdelivery.com/(...)
    

    (*) The times I have gotten the message: “this is the tracking URL, but it won’t work yet”. If there is a unique tracking ID, then just display “Currently waiting for package to arrive at our depot” or something.

  • From: NewDelivery Customer Support
    To: Peter
    Subject: The delivery of your package #34556554456
    Dear Mr Forret,
    
    We have just received a package for you that 
    we want to deliver at your earliest convenience.
    
    Tomorrow between 9h and 12h one of our drivers
    will be visiting the following delivery address:
    (...) 1000 Brussels
    
    If you will be there to accept the package, 
    there is nothing you should do now.
    
    If, however, that is not the right time/place to deliver, 
    please choose one of the following options
    1) I would like you to come at a later time
    2) I would like you to deliver at a different address 
       (e.g. your office)
    3) I would like to pick up the package 
        at one of the nearby pick-up points
       (see some suggestions further down)
    
    Click the following link if you want to change your delivery options:
    (...)
    
  • Let’s say I change to option “pick up myself”
  • From: NewDelivery
    To: Peter
    Subject: The delivery of your package #34556554456
    Dear Mr Forret,
    
    We have changed the delivery options as you requested.
    
    Your package will be available at the following pickup location:
    [Post Office/Fuel Station/Bookshop/...]
    (...) 1000 Brussels
    
    Don't forget: if you pick up the package within the next 2 days 
    (before March 26, 20h) you will also receive our PearlyPickup surprise gift.
    

    My gift would be something small like a sticker or a gift certificate, but at least I am rewarded for picking up early and helping keep the storage space limited.

  • Or even more sophisticated
    From: NewDelivery
    To: Peter
    Subject: The delivery of your package #34556554456
    Dear Mr Forret,
    
    We have just received a package for you that 
    we want to deliver at your earliest convenience.
    
    Since you already have a package stored at
    [Post Office/Fuel Station/Bookshop/...]
    (...)
    we will let this package join the other.
    
    If, however, that is not the right time/place to deliver, 
    please choose one of the following options
    1) I would like you to come at a later time
    (...)
    

BTF AlbertHall Fri 090
In my opinion, this would streamline the delivery process, keep the costs for unresponded house calls smaller, and give the buyer more confidence in the whole process. There is already a pick-it-up-myself service Kiala that works with bookshops, supermarkets and fuel stations (I use them for Proxis deliveries). But now you have to choose for either that mechanism or the delivery by a courrier, whereas it’s easier to choose the best formula once you know which day the package would be delivered. The Belgian Post could only deliver such a full service when the post offices would stay open until 18h or 19h, so that people that are not retired or unemployed would also have a chance to use them. To me, current practices leave something to be desired.

BTF AlbertHall Sat 087

7 thoughts on “Package Delivery 2.0”

  1. Big caveat in step 2:
    You presume all online customers are connected to the Internet as if it to-be-born child is connected to the womb of it’s mother.
    Look beyond our small group and people who stay on a terrace after work and stumble in bed without checking mail, let be posting on their blog (luckily still the vast majority).
    95% of the people wouldn’t respond that mail of step2 within the first 12 hours, 80% wouldn’t respond it within the 24h hours.
    Consquence:
    1. You push delivery (in your case TNT) into a new business they don’t: warehousing of goods. At 50 EU/m2 a square meter in areas like Erpe Mere, buing warehouse space isn’t cheap. Then I don’t refer to the track & trace cost of finding back the goods (when the customer eventually replies). Whereas delivery is now a flow, you would enter an enormous and insanely expensive hick-up in that flow. It seems all simple from the customer’s side, but on the process side it would become insanely expensive.
    2. The delivert times would become much longer. You might reply instantly. But your good would have to be stored in a shelve (since you imply this with this new process). When you answer, they would have to fetch it and put it back in the flow.

    The government should calculate how much cheaper it is to have Nespresso deliver that coffee machine home then the whole of Belgian driving to vandenborres and the like (as an example). Delivery IS cheaper and much more environmental friendly. Imagine if they could deliver at night in a container fetched next to your house where certified delivery firms have access to with a special chip? The government can subsidise it all.

  2. @John: it is true that 24 hours is not enough for a proper reponse, itwould have been better to use 2-3 days. But
    1) storage is a new business for TNT? What happens with packages that can’t be delivered for 7 days, you think? Have you ever tried Kiala? It does not feel like a hick-up at all!
    2) they can ask the delivery question even before it arrives at their depot. If the default is delivery at your door then there need not be any delay. The thing is that when I choose to fetch it myself, I will not blame the transporter for delay.

    3Suisses and other mailorder companies already use supermarkets for local pick-up. There’s always a supermarket near most houses, and they’re open until 19h. I’d prefer that to containers 🙂

  3. Check out the german post office’s system with the “packstation”. yellow boxes, “strategically” positioned in larger cities, accessed with PIN and card. Notification of new packages by email and sms, or for those not directly receiving their stuff at the stations via hand-filled notifications by post office employees. You can send your packages from those stations as well!

  4. @Peter
    1. TNT, UPS, DHL: they do storage of course. However, their business is completely focused to minimalisa that component in the value chain. If you are not home, the package remains in the flow and just ‘sleeps’ a night. Kiala, Delhaize,… all the models where you point to are service providers who ‘stock’ the endpoint. Stocking the endpoint is easy. Adding stocking and process within the flow is way more expensive.
    @Daniel
    Packstation: this is exactly what I was referring to. In Canada they even have it on street-level. Pick-up at 7pm in supermarkets is still a pain. I bundle my ‘shopping’ on a Tuesday or Thursday at 10am. Belgium with it’s 9 (or 10) 6 (or 7) Lo – Sat shopping hours is just to ‘packed’ traffic & people wise. Any service which offers 8pm service hours is a gift from heaven to me.
    What can we do to lobby for having those packstations in Belgium? 😉

  5. We are attempting to solve this problem in the U.S. through easyqube and qube2you.com. check it out and let me know what you think.

Leave a Reply to Daniel Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.