The fact that the last mile is the hardest mile has become something of a truism in modern eCommerce, simply because that is so often where the user experience breaks down and ultimately fails. Even with a great customer journey – with smooth onboarding, a well-merchandised online shopping experience and a seamless checkout process – none of it really matters if the consumer can’t actually get the goods they want into their hands.
As eCommerce players large and small have learned, that last step is often where things are most likely to go wrong.
“Last-mile delivery is like satisfaction Death Valley,” said Bond co-founder and CEO Asaf Hachmon. “Online brands spend tons of money to ensure that consumers have the absolute best user experience while on their website, yet they are forced to entrust couriers to deliver products with that same level of care and attention – and all too often, they don’t.”
It was a problem that Hachmon first encountered in his previous entrepreneurial effort, an Israeli grocery delivery firm called Shookit. The venture made him realize that he needed to develop a better short-distance delivery system that was more reliable, transparent and flexible.
The tech development process took about three years, and when it was complete, the firm essentially split into two. Shookit is still operational today in Tel Aviv under new management, while Shookit/Bond’s Co-founders Hachmon and Michael Osadon jumped across the pond to bring its last-mile logistics services to New York, with plans to expand to a host of major U.S. metros.
The Bond offering, according to its founders, is designed to help even the smallest eCommerce brands level up their logistical offerings by allowing them to deliver products – and accept returns – faster and more smoothly than they can today. That is accomplished with two main tools. The first is the use of super-tiny warehouses – think 600 to 1000 square feet – known as “nano distribution centers” (NDS), which are sprinkled across the New York metropolitan area.
NDC sites are chosen based on their proximity to frequent delivery destinations and how fully Bond can use the space. The centers are set up for easy ground-floor access for Bond’s fleet of delivery workers, which move on electric trikes to maximize speed and minimize pollution.
Bond makes its money by charging brands for storage in the nano distribution centers, and for pick-and-pack services offered for deliveries. Pick-and-pack tends to run $8-$12 per delivery, depending on size, weight and complexity of packaging. Storage prices vary by space used and duration.
On top of the new logistical support within urban areas, on the technical side, the Bond API allows firms to integrate delivery services into their own eCommerce apps and websites. Via that API integration, Bond allows retailers to make the entire delivery process more transparent to their customers – not to mention more customizable. Consumers can schedule same-day or next-day last-mile delivery services (before 1 p.m.), track their packages in real time, reach out directly to the courier to adjust delivery guidelines and even schedule a return pick-up with a courier if the item doesn’t work out.
The hope, according to Hachmon, is to give retailers better end-to-end control of their consumers’ experience. Today, most players are too small to build out a complex, multi-tiered logistics program of their own, he noted – and once a customer hits “buy,” the product is shipped and they lose control of the process.
As of today, Bond manages post-purchase logistics for around 30 online retailers in New York with its six NDCs. But the firm anticipates growth in the very near future – it just picked up $15 million in a round led by Lightspeed Ventures.
Bond plans to open six more NDCs in the New York metro area by March, and is planning for “dozens more throughout the year” as it expands into two additional cities by the third quarter of 2020.
Which two cities? As of yet, that is not public knowledge, although the company says an announcement is coming soon. No matter where it is, it will likely be a welcome add-on.
Because the last mile is always the hardest, and the one that almost every digital retailer is always trying to crack.