Collection points have become more and more important for e-commerce

AfhaalpuntenInternet users want to receive the goods they have ordered online ever more quickly. And their wishes are definitely taken into account! A few recent developments and a peek behind the scenes in parcel delivery services.

Consumers who buy products online have the advantage that they can take the time to compare and choose. But the downside is that there is no “instant gratification” like there is in brick-and-mortar stores. In the case of physical goods, when they visit a brick-and-mortar store, they can indeed get out of the store with their new purchase under their arm, while when they make a purchase online, they have to wait for the goods to be delivered at home.

In order to overcome this drawback, both the e-commerce businesses and the delivery sector make huge efforts to speed up delivery. Web stores work so to speak day and night in order to be able to ship the goods as quickly as possible. Large distribution centres are built, like Coolblue’s new centre in Tilburg, which is currently under construction by leading provider of industrial real estate Prologis, which will build a 22,000 m² warehouse that is set to open in July this year.

Robots and drones

There is no doubt that such large distribution centres will allow to speed things up a bit, but the question remains as to whether the same level of automation that Amazon has currently reached will be developed everywhere else. In the warehouses of the American giant, instead of having people pick the goods to pack them in boxes, state-of-the-art robots bring them to the packers. A remarkable technological achievement, as you can see in this video.

But Amazon has even more futuristic plans in the pipeline. They e.g. intend to have orders delivered to the customers by drones. Many found this idea highly unlikely. In fact, bringing a parcel in front of a house or an apartment is one thing, but having the drone ring the doorbell so that the customer can receive his parcel is a whole different matter… And will the neighbour’s dog also try to bite the drone?

However, things do not have to be so far-fetched to guarantee a much faster delivery of the parcels, and some initiatives have recently been taken to that end. Bpost e.g. announced that, from now on, they will offer Sunday delivery. This will allow web stores to offer same day delivery instead of next day delivery.

Collection points: the missing link

The problem, however, is the final step in the delivery process, i.e. the availability of the customer who has to receive his parcel. As a matter of fact, he wants his parcel to be delivered as quickly as possible, but he does not want to (or cannot) stay at home and wait indefinitely for the parcel to arrive.

This is why collection points have become so popular in recent years. In our country, we mainly use Kiala, a network of collection points that is part of shipping company UPS. They offer many collection points (newsagents, gas stations, convenience stores…). DPD, the parcel delivery service controlled by the French postal services, also have their own network of collection points. In addition to its post offices, Bpost also offers collection points. And, this week, logistics company DHL announced that they will start offering collection points in Belgium too, as they did in the Netherlands: DHL has indeed launched a recruitment campaign to have about 400 Belgian stores become DHL Parcelshops.

So, this is a win-win-win situation. The customer can collect his parcel whenever he wants, and is not forced to stay at home and wait for his parcel to be delivered. The store/collection point has a new source of income. And the web store can guarantee fast delivery. Of course, it is then the user’s responsibility to go and collect his parcel as quickly as he can!

To conclude, here are a few figures about parcel delivery services. Bpost is the current market leader in Belgium with 105,000 parcels a day (10 to 25% of the market). In 2013, four international shipping services (DHL, UPS, TNT and Fedex) achieved a market share of 15-20 % each. A growth of 20% is expected in Belgium for 2015.