The Retail Apocalypse, after all, doesn’t seem likely to happen. There’s an ongoing tectonic shift towards the expanded role played by eCommerce but this doesn’t necessarily translate into the extinction of physical shops. One thing is certain, though: people are in a rush and the time they can commit to shopping, buying groceries and preparing meals is more and more limited. They buy stuff on the run, through their phones, or browse to choose what they like and then run to the store and execute their purchase: preferably without losing time at the cash register or even in the dressing room.
It’s not improbable to imagine a world in which online shopping will be done only by mobile and mainly during commutes, that being the only free time many workers have between the cubicle and their family’s needs. Many commercial activities are already shifting their focus towards transport and “fast retail”. Some companies are implementing solutions to sell stuff aboard crowdsourced transport: Cargo, a startup that wants to turn drivers’ vehicles into little mobile shops, offering a selection of snacks and essentials, has raised $1.75 million in seed funding. Lyft has partnered with Taco Bell to offer tacos pick-up on the run, with no additional fee for the route alteration. Service providers too have noticed the trend: Doddle, offers parcel collection and shipping from train stations. Chronobee has French commuters act as crowdsourced postmen. Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo has installed a vending machine dispensing clothing at Oakland Airport in California.
Of course there’s only so much you can sell from aboard a car. Self driving cars, if and when they’ll become the norm, could become the place where online shopping is made. Ideally home deliveries, pick-ups and traditional in-store shopping will slice the market into three equal segments.
The home deliveries segment, being today’s absolute leader, is already open to experiment in last-second shopping. As we wrote here, almost two years ago: “The new figure is not a simple driver: he’s more of a driver – associate, a marketer who can counsel the customer and bring to a full circle the online-offline experience. Predictive analysis already lets online shops understand the tastes of returning customers, thus enabling Amazon to deposit a patent for Anticipatory Shipping in 2014. They basically know what you want before you want it. (…) It would just make sense to allow the man who brings the parcel to carry some more not-so-random items, just in case … Obviously, to do that, he should have plenty of time to devote to a single customer. And that’s possible too: suppliers of premium delivery options, through smart logistics, can define service times”. Enjoy, for example, offers free deliveries for tech items and the driver is a setup expert too, offering a remarkable experience.
This could be an utopian vision of our future: fewer and healthier shops offering extraordinary personal experiences; a limitless and non-intrusive eCommerce network, filling the cracks and not causing them. A subservient logistical reality that becomes entirely customer-centric, to the point of attaining a frictionless invisibility.
What about a dystopian vision of our possible future? A skeleton landscape of closed malls and ghost shops, billions of human beings detached from their kin and immersed in a constant frenzy of online shopping, a delivery apocalypse in which infrastructures can’t hold the weight of so many parcels and go tilt.
We’re actively working for the realization of the first one, by building a delivery service that gives total freedom of choice to the Shopper. Are you?
Want to know more about Milkman? Click here