business news in context, analysis with attitude

Fast Company writes about Bond - not the fictional spy, but rather "a new urban shipping company that wants to make online shopping both more sustainable and less annoying for customers."

Some context: "When someone in the neighborhood places an order in the morning with one of the brands working with the service, they can get a delivery the same afternoon—and schedule the time that the local bike courier will arrive with the package, chatting in real time with the courier, if needed. If someone misses a delivery, the package will go back to the storefront rather than a more distant distribution center. Returns can also be scheduled for pickup."

The system is enabled by a "growing network of 'nano distribution centers,' serviced by the electric vehicles." This network "means that delivery inside the neighborhood can be much more efficient. At night, when roads are clear, trucks make larger deliveries to the distribution centers. During the day, when streets are crowded, the small cargo trikes can avoid the pollution of trucks or vans stuck in traffic, and can operate more nimbly, making deliveries faster. The company has calculated that one of the logistics companies that it works with has reduced its use of trucks by 22%."

Bond, the story says, "grew out of an online grocery service in Tel Aviv called Shookit. At first, the delivery company was struggling with the cost of its delivery … Shookit decided to experiment with storing its inventory directly inside neighborhoods instead of using more traditional warehouses and then use electric trikes, and saw that it worked: deliveries were more efficient, and customers were so much less frustrated with delivery times that customer retention increased 60%. The founders decided to spin off Bond to work with other brands that were struggling with the typical problems of online delivery, like missed packages.

"Bond can deploy its distribution centers in basements, unused space in office buildings or parking garages, or, somewhat ironically, storefronts that may now be empty because neighborhood stores were pushed out of business by online shopping."
KC's View:
This yet another variation on the micro-fulfillment center / ghost kitchen / dark store trend that seems to be getting traction among a lot of retailers, as they seem to understand that local really does matter - in a lot of ways. These are just variations on the small neighborhood stores that used to dot the landscape and form the backbone of American retailing.

I will be interested to see how this trend is adapted by and for small retailers that have limited resources. As long as their brands are front and center, instead of being subsumed into a brand that wants to pre-empt them, there may be interesting ways to slice this particular loaf of bread.

Though … it also occurs to me that this is a model that could be adapted by packaged goods brands that would like to disintermediate traditional retailers and go directly to consumers.