Online retailers are racing ahead to find the perfect delivery solution to delight their waiting customers, from deliveries to their cars to drone aircraft dropping items on doorsteps – and now, possibly, a delivery model fashioned after the wildly popular taxi service Uber.
To meet the growing delivery demands and expectations of its web-savvy customers, Amazon has been introducing same-day deliveries across multiple markets, allowing people to pick up their products a few hours after they order them, at locations including newsagents and lockers the company has installed at places like train stations. But the ultimate holy grail of order fulfilment is to get the goods to the customer's door in a flash, and that's where hiring private drivers could be transformative.
Already, Uber, launched as an app in 2009, has upended the traditional taxi business, by enabling ordinary motorists to operate as private, and unlicensed, taxis. Wherever the service is available, people can instantly get an Uber cab, know its location as it approaches, and the fares are generally much lower. People love it, and the relatively new company is now worth an estimated US$41 billion. So, say fulfilment companies, can't we do the same for deliveries?
Uber's not waiting around. According to a number of media reports, the company has been testing instant deliveries using its armies of private drivers, and already it's in discussions with hundreds of major retailers to try and sign them up to what it calls Uber Merchant Delivery.
It's understood that Uber has developed a separate app for merchant deliveries and has been training selected drivers in how to use it and the wider service. The company is already in the delivery business, operating a courier service as well as food and fresh produce deliveries – UberEats and UberFresh – in various US and overseas markets. But now it appears Uber wants to get into the order fulfilment business in a major way, and is aiming to snare business from all kinds of e-commerce retailers, from Amazon and eBay right down to much smaller operations.
It seems certain, then, that you could soon see an Uber car delivering direct to your door.