In the next 10 years drivers will become the newest link of a customer-centric Supply Chain, assuming a pivotal role in the retail world.
Try to figure this: Hong Kong by night. City of lights, where past and future overlap. Ancient open air markets sprawling at the feet of skyscrapers. Inside one of this glass towers a group of distinguished ladies gather at a private party. Everyone of them has brought wine and five different pairs of shoes to compare. The ones they don’t like, the next day, are sent back to whatever e-commerce provided them.
This, as reported by Mark Millar at the Omni-Channel conference held in London last September, is actually happening. Mr. Millar used the example to support his theory about the danger of free returns. We’d like to use it with another goal in mind: because at that party, and in other parts of the globe, something new is gestating, almost ready to be born.
Let us tell another story: in California Amazon Fresh is delivering groceries to your doorstep for 299$ a year . That’s a lot of money, especially if you're not allowed to know the exact origin of the food and not entitled to choose that particular tomato who’s rounder and redder than the others.
California's Inland Empire
Now let’s pretend that both the Hong Kong shoes and the Santa Clarita tomatoes were brought, to fashionistas and housewives alike, by a delivery man (or woman) who actually knows what he’s transporting.
Not the usual grumpy, unhelpful, delivery guy (like this one?) but someone who knows about shoes, and sizes, and fashion, and if you don’t like what you received can guide you through the online catalog until the perfect match is found (in France it's already happening, with private at-home stylists sent by ChicTypes and Georges). Or a vegetable expert, who can direct the clueless husband towards a delicious home cooked dinner.
The future role of Couriers? (Walt Disney's Cinderella)
This 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's like Minority Report, with shopping instead of murder. 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.
What do you think: would you enjoy the gallant courier or do you find the entire concept a little creepy?