Uber Eats or Grubhub? Postmates or Instacart? For last-mile delivery, there are several choices for consumers to get take out, household products or their groceries delivered to their doors from a local store by a courier.
But by using these third-party services, retailers give up a part of their brand identity. They’re selling goods on another company’s app that shows another company’s branding, after all.
Companies must make a choice: either use a third-party platform and give up their branding or hire their own drivers.
Enter Lineten, which builds eCommerce engines for companies looking to develop their online presence without giving up their branding — or having to build a fleet. As a result, retailers don’t have to go through the trouble of purchasing a van or a truck.
“To put their own fleet on the road is going to be very costly,” Lineten Growth Lead David Lynch told PYMNTS. “We can find different delivery providers specific to the areas they want to deliver.”
Through an aggregation platform, Lineten selects delivery providers based on when a delivery needs to reach a customer and the type of product the retailer wants delivered. A company that has a driver with a Prius, for example, may be well-suited to deliver lamps, chairs and small tables.
Opportunity in Calgary
Lineten is based in London, but the company saw a market in Calgary, Canada. Lynch, who’s lived there for a year and half, saw there was a big window for a more formalized system of on-demand delivery.
“We chose Calgary because there were a lot of opportunities to allow these amazing restaurants and retailers to own their customers,” Lynch said. “And because there was a gap in the market in terms of same-day delivery.”
In addition, Lineten saw an opportunity to use cabs — among other delivery partners — as they already have a level of utilization. Taxis are constantly roaming city streets, after all.
“They have guys on the road already,” Lynch said, adding that Lineten is simply assigning them work.
While Lineten does food delivery, the company is more interested in grocery, pharmaceuticals and, yes, iPhone repair.
But what about the elephant in the room — Amazon?
“There’s no two ways about it: Amazon is an amazing platform, and we all know that,” Lynch said. “And what they’re doing globally in terms of offering a level of new on-demand service is incredible.”
But Lineten enables local merchants to market their products through their own channels without having to rely on third-party eCommerce platforms such as Amazon.
“We’re reminding the customer of their value and their ability to sell directly to their customer rather than Amazon,” Lynch said.
During 2017, more than 300,000 U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) joined Amazon Marketplace. In a press release, Amazon said billions of products were sold worldwide on its platform last year, with half of those items coming from SMBs operating on Amazon Marketplace.
Many of those businesses also tapped Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon, which provides them with access to the eCommerce giant’s logistics network and makes their items Prime-eligible.
But while consumers shopping online — at retailers such as Amazon — can look at ratings, comments, reviews or price, local merchants provide something different, Lynch said. They can provide a narrative and delivery within a half hour to an hour if need be.
Bicycles, Motorcycles, Cabs, Trucks and Tankers
Lineten’s business is not limited to cabs. It also works with companies that have a fleet of bikes, electric vehicles or electric cars. The company also partners with firms that have 18-wheelers, along with tankers for oil and gas.
“We work with any company that is a logistics provider that can provide a level of service that is to the standard of our customer,” Lynch said. But it works with companies — and not just individual drivers — to help with quality control.
In the future, Lineten has built-in flexibility to handle self-driving vehicles and drones. Ford has already launched a partnership with Postmates to test its self-driving technology for deliveries, while Amazon has tinkered with drones.
But, if retailers ditch drivers in cars or trucks for something else, Lineten will be able to use the same delivery providers and their new modes of delivery.
“When a delivery provider decides to get rid of its fleet of vehicles and go automated, that doesn’t change our relationship with our customer,” Lynch said. “We can just use their drones. We can use their automated vehicles.”