Earlier this month, we reported on news that trials are taking place to assess the viability of using the boot of a car as a secure, alternative parcel drop off point. Is this a ground-breaking approach to easing the last-mile bottleneck? Or is it an example of next-big-thing hype?
In the early days of click-and-collect, there were plenty of doubters to be found – why would customers want to go into a shop to collect something they’d bought online when they could have it delivered to them at home? We’ve also seen a great deal of interest in the potential for using drones to deliver parcels, but much of that initial enthusiasm has been replaced by scepticism and a sense that drones will find their niche, but never be mainstream.
It begs the question, which of those two potential destinies is the car boot drop off most likely to succumb to? In the absence of a crystal ball, we invited a range of people from the industry to share their view.
If, after reading this, you too have an opinion you’d like to share, please get in touch as we’ll gladly publish a few more opinions on this.
Eoin Kenneally, head of ecommerce at MyHermes, thinks the car boot is a viable option:
“The delivery to car concept is a really good example of how to use the emerging ‘Internet of Things’ that is currently a hot topic. It could be a good solution for the many commuters who park their cars and travel into cities for work, allowing their secure stationary vehicle to be a drop point of choice. Also if a consumer is out for any reason but their car is on the drive then this becomes a very good alternative drop point. It a very viable concept and will help to make excellent use of the large amount empty boot space around the country.
“One important element will be the development of good technology standards to ensure it can be carrier agnostic, reliable and provide customer security. The redirection of items in real time could also be an issue, so ensuring good analytics from the driver’s daily routine and being able to predict their locations will also be a massive requirement.”
David Grimes, managing director at My Parcel Delivery, is also positive and thinks there will be exciting developments in this space:
“It is simply great to hear about any innovation taking place in our industry that is traditionally quite static. The fact that Audi and Volvo are involved in the car boot delivery trials is very encouraging as their customer and technical feedback will be vital.
“We all want to give customers choices and options to suit their needs, so anything that expands delivery options for the consumer, sounds good to me.
“As an industry, we need people to try new things to make sure we continue making improvements and avoid delivery services becoming stale. This news is surely a sign of the times, and that everyone is starting to appreciate the role of delivery in our day-to-day lives.
“That said, there are a couple of potential obstacles that could hold this idea back, purely in terms of practicalities. For instance, at the moment it’s difficult to see who this initiative might appeal to since the average consumer is probably likely to take their car with them when they aren’t at home. This may not be a deal breaker, however, if there is a particular customer who this works for, including commuters and two-car owners. It will also be interesting to see how Volvo and Audi develop a strategy or technology for overcoming any security issues. For this to work, they will need to make it possible for the courier to leave a parcel in the boot without leaving the car, and the delivered items, vulnerable to theft.
“I am convinced that we are going to see something exciting emerge here – watch this space.”
Mark Thompson, Retail Industry Director, Zebra Technologies, thinks the UK should take a lead from the Nordic region, where delivery boxes at people’s homes are increasingly commonplace:
“It’s great to see that, as an industry, we’re finally thinking out of the ‘box’ when it comes to delivery issues. Delivery is now one of the key battlegrounds of omnichannel retail. But with the right systems in place, it’s easier to enable supply chain visibility and add new services like car boot drop offs.
“Adding more ways for people to try, shop and return will add to the feeling that here’s one store built around convenience for them. The Nordic regions have already implemented delivery boxes at customer’s houses – which can be opened with chipped cards – in order to store parcels. Forward thinking strategies like these will mean no more missed deliveries.
“This can only be positive – for the retailer, the transport provider, and of course, the consumer.”
Hugo Pickford-Wardle, chief innovation officer at Matter wrote a piece for eDelivery recently on the potential for using the home-bound elderly as micro DCs for their local community. While he thinks that’s a more interesting, and socially valuable option than car boots, he remains positive about the idea:
“The kernel of this idea is using an asset you’ve already got – like the boot of your car. You can see it with Air BnB, with people renting out their driveways.
“Yes, the technology has to be available but telematics data already exists. Also the technology to allow the courier to open and close the boot of your car. The technology used by the driver will need to be really good though, to enable in-flight changes. But this already happens with traffic data. You’re just including an extra data point – your car.
“Things like insurance problems are easy to fix. Insurers are used to dealing with new problems – something like Uber is probably creating more headaches.”
But on that very subject, one representative of the motor insurance industry eDelivery spoke to was nonplussed by the whole idea, and although they preferred to keep their identity anonymous, they were prepared to say:
“I’m not sure how this is meant to work. With central locking it isn’t possible to isolate the boot. Apart from which, saloon cars are a very small portion of sales nowadays and few vehicles have ‘boots’ for secure storage.”
Josh Pitman, marketing manager of PrioryDirect, however, believes innovation often outpaces expectations:
“It seems almost unimaginable now that just a few years ago ordering online for delivery to your home was considered the height of convenience. In the past, fast delivery was the primary goal and this created the bottle necks at key buying times, such as Black Friday.
“Today, accurate and flexible delivery options are more important than speed for many and gone are the days of consumers waiting in for their parcels to arrive, they want to choose when and where they will receive their goods. Using the boot of the customer’s car as an alternative delivery point takes this one step further, putting their needs first and ensuring they receive their goods in a way that best suits them.
“The main benefit of this delivery method for businesses is that it will vastly reduce the number of failed deliveries, in turn saving firms both time and resources.”
Niklas Hedin, CEO of Centiro thinks there are potentially more fruitful ways of keeping the promises made to customers:
“The news that Audi and Amazon are trialing deliveries to the boots of cars shows that the trend of increasing complexity in deliveries is increasing, and that diversity is now required to offer consumers the full range of options they are demanding. The way a consumer can and will want to receive deliveries will continue to evolve, sometimes in disruptive ways to the market. However, in terms of wider adoption delivery to the boot of a car either requires the user base to meet critical mass, or the use of smart routing, perhaps paired with a crowdsourced peer-to-peer model.
“In our experience and opinion, other things are equally, and sometimes more important in solving the problem of missed deliveries. This includes how to set the expectations of the customer, i.e. ‘the promise’, and how you keep them informed along the way. When this element is done right, we see drastic reductions in the numbers of missed deliveries. As the evolution of delivery management continues, we will also see some delivery methods disappear. It is normal in any explorative phase of disruptive evolution that you first see many alternatives arrive on the scene, and as the area matures, the viable alternatives remain. While the boot of the car may be one of these survivors, retailers and carriers should keep an eye on the bigger picture to see the delivery options that consumers are demanding most.”
Phillip Smith, UK Country Manager of Trusted Shops also sees limitations to the car boot strategy:
“The new trials for car boot delivery certainly provide a solution for some, but by no means the masses. If owning a high-end car with the most up-to-date technology is the criteria, then the wide-spread problem of missed deliveries can’t be solved.
“A real solution is being able to achieve, anytime, anywhere delivery – 24/7, regardless of whether the customer owns a car. Like Amazon lockers, Doddle collection points and click-and-collect, this only offers a compromise.
“And this trialling is even more compromising due to the layer of vulnerability that is added by introducing technology to the lock of a customers car. Of course this has security implications – just imagine if any stories came out about goods being stolen from car boots. The whole concept could be put to bed quicker than it takes to deliver a parcel.
“Delivering the best service, end-to-end and being able to provide convenient delivery is an arms race for retailers – it’s how they score brownie points with customers and guarantee positive feedback.
“Realistically all couriers need to do is get a parcel to someone’s front door out of hours, at a reasonable price. Boot delivery is a yet another example of ‘thinking big’ and letting reality get lost in the ‘wow’ factor.”
A second part of this feature will be published later this week, giving voice to those who don’t believe the car boot parcel point is much more than a gimmick, and some who point out some very real barriers to its success.
If you’d like to get involved in the conversation you can leave a comment or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org