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Google, House of Fraser, revolution and evolution: the delivery wheels keep turning


Put down all that ‘what will Amazon do next’ speculation I’m often talking about. We need to have a chat about Google.
News that Google has been awarded a patent (by the US Patent office) for a driverless delivery vehicle containing secure parcel lockers means that another of the internet’s truly colossal operators is taking an interest in retail fulfillment.

Amazon is already heavily involved in delivery – it’s practically part of the etailer’s DNA. If you took all the speculation about Amazon at face value you’d conclude that the one-time bookseller is about to become a domestic carrier in the UK, a pan-European carrier with its own planes, an air freight operator in the US with a fleet of 20-30 planes, and a shipping container operator.

Hard to imagine when Mr Bezos will find time to launch more space rockets.

But I said we should put down the Amazon speculation, didn’t I..? So let’s turn back to Google.

The Google patent is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is that we’re talking about Google here, a company that is already significantly committed to the development of driverless cars. It’s a big name and big names tend to garner attention – as I’m proving right now.

I think it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a Google-branded autonomous delivery truck pull up outside your house. I think it’s far more likely that you’ll see an autonomous delivery truck ‘powered by Google’ but operated by a traditional carrier pull up outside your house. That’s not to say I think that’s a very likely outcome in its own right – there are still a lot of hurdles for driverless tech to clear before they will be permissible and economically viable.

But the focus on the final mile is going to intensify, and that’s borne out by Google’s patent in this field. Over the next few years retailers will begin to become separated into groups – not unlike the way riders in the Tour de France form themselves naturally into leaders, the pelaton, and those bringing up the rear.

Having the right technology, the right processes, and the right strategy to execute with faultless effectiveness across the final mile all the way down to the first mile, is going to be one of those determining factors.

This development of a retail elite is something examined in excellent detail by our colleagues at InternetRetailing, who last week unveiled the 2016 UK Top500 report, which analyses and assess retailers’ ability and performance. The operations & logistics element of this year’s report focuses on retailers’ ability to keep their promises – one of the absolute fundamentals of multichannel retail.

From average delivery charges, to the availability of next-day and same-day delivery, the IRUK Top500 breaks retailers down into categories such as Elite and Leader, and looks at what the rest of the industry might learn from their operational successes.

Elsewhere on eDelivery, I ponder on which is best – evolution or revolution. Or even whether ‘best’ is a helpful construct – maybe different is a better way of looking at it. But one thing that struck me at the recent MetaPack Delivery Conference was that some businesses are developing services built on top of existing infrastructures, and others are faced with the challenge of developing an infrastructure as well as a compelling service idea.

The final mile will be made up of many competing and complementary offerings. Some, however, will have the edge right from the off.

On the subject of conferences and events, please don’t forget that eDelivery Expo (EDX16) takes place on 27 and 28 April this year in Birmingham, at the NEC. We would love to see you there. I’ve been talking with some of the speakers we have lined up and we’ll be running interviews with some of them in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here’s a quick overview of the main EDX16 points including how to register.

From eDelivery Magazine, we have a retail review feature with House of Fraser in the spotlight. Looking at delivery, collection, and returns, what did our panel of experts make of House of Fraser’s ability to perform?

And finally, we have some news of sharing economy developments, from one of the first delivery companies to embrace it, to a service that only launched this month. The former is Menzies, the news shipping specialist that has its sights set on more ecommerce parcels business – another acquisition means the Menzies network has an interesting new string to its bow.

If you have an opinion to share, maybe about the sharing economy, or Google, or Amazon, or anything else delivery related you can email me direct via this link.

As always, if you haven’t subscribed to eDelivery yet we’d love it if you did. You’ll get a weekly newsletter summarising the main stories we’ve covered, and we’ll keep you informed of other big announcements. But we won’t spam you – no one’s liked spam since the 1940s, have they? You’ll find details on subscribing here. And if you’re not receiving a copy of the magazine you’ll find details on that too.

You can also join our LinkedIn group for analysis and networking as it happens, or if you want your updates in real-time find us on Twitter @edeliverynet.

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