Think about morning traffic. The one who can turn the meekest citizen into a bloodthirsty street pirate. It starts around half-past seven, with a host of parents on the school to work route, followed by a short decline, and then boosts again at couriers’ time, with fleets of vans invading the city and parking everywhere.
Now imagine increasing the number of deliveries by 78%. Too many? Perhaps still an acceptable number for a small Italian city, unacceptable in Milan or Rome, catastrophic for New York or London, where traffic is collapsing.
This, according to the Future of the Last Mile Ecosystem research, published by the World Economic Forum, is the future that awaits us in 2030. And that’s not all: the average commute, which is around 53 minutes, will grow to 64 minutes, 23% of which to be attributed to e-commerce deliveries. Emissions will go up 30%.
Scary numbers that, fortunately, are faced by a sector already actively decreasing, as quickly as possible, the pollution produced by its vehicles. There is no courier who does not have a plan to become full-electric. There is no city that is not planning ever more stringent blocks for polluting vehicles.
According to WEF, the benefits brought by e-commerce are few: the trips saved thanks to consumers who decide to click instead of going out to go to the store lose 1 to 3 compared to how much traffic their clicks bring to the street.
But what are the most clicked products? And how does their appreciation evolve between the physical store and e-commerce? Grocery and health are the only sectors that are still firmly “physical”, even if the latter is making great strides towards the Web. Furniture, beauty, pet supplies and baby care remain slightly unbalanced towards the store, while proceeding at dizzying speed towards the online. Small appliances, jewellery and footwear made the leap between 2018 and 2019 and are now in full e-commerce territory. There they find themselves in good company, together with electronics, toys and clothing.
24 are the priority interventions to be operated on the last mile, catalogued in three categories: in use, implementable in the next 1-3 years, and implementable in 4+ years. Among those in use, electric vehicles and lockers are the most promising, even if the doubts surrounding the scalability of the latter remain, at least until everyone will agree to have multi-carrier lockers. There is no trace, in the short term, of robots and drones: they will not be the ones to save the time and lungs of the poor commuters, at least not before a few years.
Micro city hubs, car parks and lanes dedicated to couriers, night deliveries and electricity are the way indicated by the forum as more “realistic” and rapid to implement, capable of saving up to 35% of emissions (expected for 2030, not today) and up to 25% of road congestion (ditto). We add, on our part, that a punctual planning of the routes and a high rate of deliveries made on the first attempt (by appointment time slot, advanced tracking and constant communication with the customer), could positively weigh on this issue.