The Future of eCommerce Logistics

Uber in BeijingUber Fresh, a new service being tested in Santa Monica, delivers meals midday for $12 per meal.  And in DC, Uber’s Corner Store concept, where one can purchase a number of items that are delivered and charged to an Uber account, is being piloted. While some might compare these forays into product delivery to a pizza delivery service, let’s take a closer look.

I travel frequently and have had the opportunity to try Uber in several different cities, most recently in San Francisco, where I tried UberX for the first time. Little did the UberX drivers know they would be subjected to a barrage of questions as they drove between hotel and restaurants several times over a couple of days! I learned a lot from the drivers, particularly how much they enjoyed being part of Uber.

The conversations with each driver were very interesting, especially how they viewed the company and the company’s potential. Uber is not simply building a team, they are building a community. A community of drivers — or better yet — a community of local logistics “enthusiasts”.  As this community continues to expand and the availability of such enthusiasts grows, Uber could eventually become the go-to eCommerce logistics solution for local deliveries. Obviously, we are already seeing evidence of this with Uber, and since it is still in the emerging stages, it should be a call to action for retailers engaged in local commerce for several reasons:

Local Knowledge: The Uber drivers that I had the pleasure of meeting all had good knowledge of the local area. They were friendly and enthusiastic about their passenger’s perception of the city and Uber itself. Great ambassadors for the brand and for what they were doing.

Expediency: On one occasion, I had to wait about 5 minutes for an UberX to arrive. Not bad given that I had to wait almost 10 minutes for a taxi at the hotel before I gave up and located an UberX driver nearby on their iPhone app.  The ability to see when a driver is going to arrive at your location could be easily modified to find a driver in the vicinity of a specific retailer, where a product pickup could be made and the item brought to your door within minutes.  Imagine the change in the commerce experience:  Go online to a local retailer, make a purchase, link directly to Uber to schedule a pickup, get a price for the product, perhaps including the delivery charge, and wait for your doorbell to ring.

Security: Each Uber driver has to pass a background check, which brings some peace of mind to the process but the security I’m talking about is payment related. Using Uber’s built-in ability to process a payment on your mobile device keeps credit cards from changing hands. Uber’s Corner Store concept is using their current payment process to accept payment for the product and built-in delivery charge.

The combination of local knowledge, expediency, and security is going to be a real game changer for local commerce. And why not think bigger than that?  Why wouldn’t it be possible for me to purchase something for a family member in another city and have Uber pick it up and deliver it to their door?  The technology is there!

Current online retailers should begin to think about integrating with non-traditional logistics solutions such as Uber in order to offer their customers the broadest range of options.  There are huge possibilities here that could be real game changers for those on the leading edge.

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