The social implications of crowdsourced delivery

Ben Montreuil recently tweeted a YouTube link to MyWays, DHL’s crowdsourced last mile delivery service in Stockholm. As I wrote recently in my DC Velocity blog, crowdsourcing companies are invading the logistics world like the “dot coms” of 1999. The innovations in this space are happening at breakneck speed—I was astonished to notice that the video was posted almost a year ago!

The MyWays video below features Carolina and Ola on both ends of a crowdsource transaction. Ola orders guitar strings and selects MyWays as his means of delivery. Carolina sees the delivery on her app and decides to make a few “credits” by delivering the strings on her way home from university.

Three quick features before I get to what is most interesting to me….

  1. Ola gets to specify both a location and a time window for his delivery. Presumably he could change this information over time, as his plans change for the day. This is a step toward “direct to device” delivery that we described in the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling and Logistics, in which delivery drivers (we were thinking of package carrier drivers—silly us!) make deliveries to the location of people (read: their GPS-enabled devices) rather than to addresses. It won’t be long before someone tries this.
  2. Ola names his price, in units of “credits.” I love this feature! Absolutely, positively want it in the next hour? Then be willing to pay for it. Creating a real-time market for delivery pricing is an ingenious way to price a new service, and it absolves DHL of meeting service expectations. Don’t like the service you got? Then you were too cheap to pay for what you wanted!
  3. Carolina “pulls” her delivery, rather than MyWays pushing it to her. Again, this feature absolves DHL of making suboptimal or inappropriate assignments that the “drivers” themselves would be better off making. The disadvantage, of course, is the potential for missed opportunities. What if Carolina had forgotten to check her app when an easy delivery had been available? This could easily be fixed with optional push notifications.

What is most interesting to me, however, is the end of the video, in which Carolina and Ola meet face to face. There is just something appealing about the social implications of crowdsourcing. We all love our DHL drivers, but to customers they are just an extension of the corporation—and they wear uniforms for crying out loud! When someone from the neighborhood delivers my package, I make a social connection that I otherwise wouldn’t, and the experience itself enhances my quality of life. Now that is real value.

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