Same-day delivery has come to be expected in eCommerce, but not every business has the funds and resources to pick up the pace and pack an Amazon-powered punch.
Smaller sellers typically find themselves caught between two unappealing choices: straining their budgets to shell out for a private delivery company, or entrusting their delivery to national parcel services that cannot always offer the same speed. This is a problem Europe-based connected crowdshipping delivery startup LivingPackets is hoping to solve.
“There was a massive surge in online delivery,” said Marie Le Page, co-founder and CEO of the company’s U.K. division. “We saw more and more companies struggle to cope with the volume of deliveries, especially from eCommerce.”
In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Le Page explained how LivingPackets aims to fill this delivery services gap with its IoT-enabled solution. The offering serves both national and cross-border shipments in the EU, and the company boasts a current focus on facilitating cross-border traffic via the railroad between London and Paris. It also plans to support rail-based delivery throughout Europe and overseas by airplane.
LivingPackets capitalizes on the stream of travelers crossing borders or winding through cities each day by offering them payment to ferry a package on the way to its destination. That’s easier said than done, of course. Creating a system that reliably brings untampered packages to their destinations — and assuages senders and travelers concerns — takes careful design. That’s where a special-made package equipped with IoT technology comes into play.
Though still in its soft launch phase, LivingPackets has drawn particular interest from three business sectors: product manufacturers seeking tight security and confidentiality, retailers that crave expansion into international eCommerce and luxury fashion sellers whose customers need fast turnaround, according to Le Page. The company plans to first focus on delivery within the EU, and sees large potential in offering retailers same-day cross-border shipments in the region — something not even Amazon is currently doing.
“[Retailers] now have an ability to send a delivery internationally, which is something people are still blown away by,” she said. “Amazon is leading the way on [same-day delivery], but they do that nationally. They aren’t currently offering that option internationally.”
On the peer-to-peer (P2P) side, demand includes rapid gift delivery before holidays and sending items a family member forgot at home, such as keys or laptop.
LivingPackets turns to IoT to ensure senders are comfortable entrusting their packages to a stranger. Items are packaged in specialized bags that have automatic locks and interior sensors to monitor weight, humidity, shock and temperature — all steps intended to prevent tampering.
Should the delivery-carrying traveler have to open the bag, an alarm triggers and a notification is sent through an associated app to both the company and sender. Both can activate an interior camera to photograph the goods when the bag is reclosed. The photo, along with data from the weight sensor, work to confirm that nothing was added or removed from the package, and the event is logged on a tracking timeline associated with the delivery.
LivingPackets also performs identification checks on anyone who registers to deliver, and enables customers to give starred ratings of these “voyagers” performances. Senders receive a level of insurance on their goods, too, but Le Page said it is unlikely that a voyager would try to steal a shipment. After all, their verified identities are already associated with their deliveries, making it pretty difficult to disappear.
Traveling with trust
The voyager gets a few reassurances of his or her own, including that the goods being transported are safe and legal. Senders must register with the company, as well as photograph and write a description of what is being sent. The items are confirmed against the descriptions after they are dropped off at a designated pick up location — typically a transit station, gas station or other highly trafficked area — by the local store partner. That partner puts the items into the specialized bags, and the items are confirmed again by the voyager on pick up.
Not all retailers will want to comply, Le Page said. Many are sending goods in their own packaging and don’t want customers receiving an already opened box. To accommodate this, LivingPackets conducts an authentication process with the business, and the voyager receives a letter to provide to relevant officials, if needed, that states that the sender takes responsibility for the contents. While the company’s delivery service is not yet available in locations where border control would be involved, this is one feature it developed to help ensure that voyagers can pass easily through those customs processes when it does expand.
Growing demand for cross-border commerce has made space for companies like LivingPackets. The biggest leap would be taking operations to the air, but complying with regulations takes partnerships and careful work to ensure easy passage for voyagers. Other companies’ attempts to send connected baggage overseas have struck out, with a number of smart luggage firms closing after the tech sparked concerns and was banned from major airline carriers.
To better appeal to border control, LivingPackets intends to roll out a feature providing agents with an app. The solution would detail the number of its packages that are on each train or plane, as well as who’s transporting, sending and receiving them. In addition, while smart luggage hit snarls over fears of lithium batteries being placed in cargo holds, the company’s three bag sizes are designed to fit into an aircraft’s overhead compartment.
LivingPackets expects it won’t be long before it can become “flying packets.” That will still take some negotiations, however. Passengers need to be permitted to carry shipments across borders for the solution to fly, and that is not always allowed. The company also needs to avoid being tripped up by airport security’s concerns over passengers carrying bags they did not personally pack.
If all works out as planned, though, retailers and others turning to IoT-enabled shipping could see their eCommerce strategies raised to new heights — and could cross their businesses into more powerful and profitable cross-border trade.