28 July, 2014
London Underground trials home shopping collection points
London Underground car parks are the latest locations to be adopted by the retail market as alternative delivery points for home shopping.
In rapid succession Asda, Tesco and Waitrose have announced plans to trial the concept at various stations in London’s outer suburbs, and in a separate but related move, locker-bank company InPost has announced that it has reached agreement with Transport for London to install its box banks in London Underground car parks.
The three retailers have moved cautiously into the idea. Asda, for instance, is understood to have launched the concept by stationing a delivery van in the car park from a designated time each day (4pm has been mentioned). The initial stations were East Finchley, Epping, Harrow and Wealdstone, High Barnet, Highgate and Stanmore.
Tesco took a similar approach last year when it launched trials of a pickup service from schools and libraries.
However, Waitrose has already trialled a box-bank delivery service with staff at its own headquarters, in this case using ByBox equipment, so has some experience of how it could work.
InPost is bullish about the opportunities, saying it intends to expand the network to other travel locations such as bus, coach and railway stations. It already claims to have more than 800 terminals in place in the UK.
Omnica acquired by Columbus software group
Omnica, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of multi-channel fulfilment software, has been acquired by Columbus, a major international software group with origins in Denmark. The price has not been disclosed.
Omnica was founded in 2007, and saw rapid growth under the leadership of managing director Harry Manley, who previously cut his teeth with rival Maginus. It focused from the start on the Microsoft Dynamics platform, which is also a speciality of Columbus.
It quickly built up an extensive customer base, amongst which are brands such as Lucky Vitamin, Eason and Direct Wines. It is understood to have a work force of 30 employees, which is substantial for a specialised developer in this sector.
Columbus has been vigorously acquisitive over many years, and has a achieved a strong global presence through subsidiaries and agencies. Its turnover in 2012 was just short of DKK 900 million.
The company says Omnica appealed because of its "deep engagement and knowledge within the retail industry". According to chief executive Thomas Honoré: "With Omnica as part of our business we will gain unrivalled knowledge and insights in this field."
Harry Manley adds: "With Columbus’s global reach we can expand into new markets and take our multi-channel retail solutions to new levels."
City Link launches predictive delivery ETA texting
City Link is the latest carrier to launch a service under which it will text home delivery recipients with details of an impending delivery, offering various options if the recipient will not be available at the proposed time. It is calling its service On Our Way.
The estimated delivery window is two hours, which is longer than that provided by the pioneering DPD system, but City Link has skipped one of the stages of DPD’s roll-out, offering the alerts on the evening before the delivery right from the start, rather than just the same day. DPD has taken a couple of years to progress to that point.
City Link has also launched with a full range alternative delivery scenarios that the consumer can choose from, including delivery on a named day up to three days ahead; leaving the parcel with a neighbour; leaving it in a safe place; collecting it from a City Link depot; and returning it to the sender.
It is a free service to account customers, who simply sign up to it and then supply their own customers’ email address or mobile phone number when they transmit the orders to City Link.
With large corporate customers the data is captured during the order file transfer process, while for SME customers information is available online. The company says it is also working on a major upgrade to its My City Link reporting system which will integrate On Our Way information into the core reports offered to account customers.
According to managing director David Smith: "We recognise that today’s consumers want to be in control of how they receive their deliveries. This innovation brings us right up to speed with the best consumer offerings out there."
International returns service launched by P2P
A home shopping returns system called Trakpak Rebound has been launched by fulfilment specialist P2P eSolutions, the international delivery arm of P2P Mailing. It is said to be able to operate both domestically and across borders.
There are two versions of the service. The Premier offer uses a web-based returns portal that can be integrated into the e-retailer’s own web site, as well as with existing customer service software. The Basic version provides the same returns handling capability, but without what the company calls "the first mile capability".
As part of the Rebound service, the company recovers value from returned stock by liquidating it on behalf of the retailer, using a classic combination of online and offline platforms. It says its team will research the most profitable marketplaces to list excess stock in order to maximise profit on every item.
Through international contacts, the company says it is able to provide the Rebound service through an impressive network of 250 locations worldwide, with low-cost delivery rates.
Home delivery box revived in Germany by DHL
In a move reminiscent of the UK’s e-commerce market of fifteen years ago, DHL (the main postal operator in Germany) has launched a range of delivery boxes that can be installed outside consumers’ homes for receiving unattended home deliveries or handling consumer returns.
Its range of Paketkasten, or packet boxes, is being offered for rental (from just 1.99 euros a month) or for outright purchase at prices from 99 euros. The boxes are limited to DHL deliveries, but since DHL handles a high proportion of home shopping deliveries in Germany, the appeal will presumably not be dented by this restriction.
The boxes are available in a range of sizes and in two styles – "classic" and "modern" – though both are essentially metal boxes with a door on the front. They can be mounted on a wall or on a free-standing plinth.
Various manufacturers are thought to be supplying the boxes, including Erwin Renz Metallwarenfabrik and Polygon, both based in Germany.
A plethora of such boxes was launched in Britain at the turn of the century, including most notably the Bearbox. However, very few of these early contenders survived, apart from the HippoBox, now renamed the Hippo Dropbox.
In recent years various alternatives have emerged, including the ambitious insulated Shopbox (more in Delivery solutions feature, page xx), but until now none of the UK contenders has had the clout of a major parcel delivery company behind it.
Tracked and Signed international deliveries from Royal Mail
Royal Mail has launched a new international Tracked and Signed delivery service for businesses and individuals posting to 43 destinations worldwide.
It says the product is part a drive to offer an improved and simplified range of international services for online retailers, helping them meet the delivery needs of overseas shoppers ordering goods from the UK.
The organisation has also expanded the availability of tracking to customers posting to twelve other countries including Iceland, Greece, Hungary, South Korea, Thailand, India and the Cayman Islands, through the International Tracked and International Tracked and Signed services.
• Royal Mail says its research suggests that 68 per cent of UK SME e-retailers who export will be targeting new international markets in 2014. The USA is the top country being targeted.