A Dublin start-up has succeeded in creating a technology that will hopefully dispel the ‘sorry we missed you’ delivery lament that must have greeted thousands of online shoppers recently in the run up to Christmas.
Eamon Keane, the CEO of Xpreso, said it’s a typical conundrum his company aims to resolve.
Xpreso recently won the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC)’s Lift Off competition in Dublin, in the culmination of the NDRC LaunchPad 8 accelerator programme. The company beat off competition from a number of fellow start-ups and gained €30,000 in fresh investment.
This Christmas, each person is estimated to waste 140 minutes waiting for delivery drivers, costing the UK economy some €1bn, according to Retail Week. An estimated 600m hours are spent each year in the UK and Ireland waiting for delivery drivers, said Keane.
“At the same time, couriers themselves are frustrated when they arrive to an empty house, because they have to return the next day with the parcel and deal with angry customers," he added.
According to Metapack, 10pc of all deliveries to domestic addresses fail to be delivered at the first attempt in the UK. With the current 1.1bn B2C parcels in the UK market, this translates to more than 100m failed delivery attempts per year, according to Keane.
Xpreso endeavours to solve this problem by creating an open communications platform between couriers and consumers.
On the morning of delivery, Xpreso sends the customer an arrival time window and a link to track his or her order in real-time. For example, ‘Your Apple iPad is now on Dave’s van from An Post and will arrive between 10-11am. You can track your order in real-time here.’
“With the link, or by downloading our app, you can view the driver’s location on a map and get a continually updated estimated time of arrival (ETA) and a push notification when he is nearby," Keane said. "We then give you a range of options if you don’t happen to be in the house at that time, such as selecting a particular neighbour, a local shop or parcel locker for the parcel to be re-directed to."
Alternatively, customers can nominate a different delivery date. With Xpreso, they can also communicate instructions to the driver, such as ‘my doorbell doesn’t work, could you please call me when you arrive?’
The European e-commerce industry is worth more than €300bn and is growing at 19% per year, with €100bn of this in the UK. Delivery is a key pain point for e-commerce, said Keane.
He added that most courier companies are still struggling to adapt to the boom in e-commerce. The ratio of B2B (business-to-business) versus B2C (business-to-consumer) for most couriers has switched from 80:20 five years ago to 50:50 currently.
“With over a billion parcels being delivered each year, the expectation for people to be home from 8am-8pm is not realistic," said Keane. "People often get items delivered to work, with 20pc of the parcel volume direct there. However, only one-third of bosses are happy with this practice, and 10pc have banned getting personal items delivered to work."
A switch towards a more flexible delivery system is what the market is crying out for, Keane added.
Software-as-a-service solution for courier companies
Xpreso is working with courier companies to bring about these changes, with an initial focus on the UK market. The company offers a low capex, software-as-a-service solution to courier companies, with no change to their existing enterprise software.
“For the courier driver, we have an Android app which geocodes his jobs, optimises his route, and allows him to communicate with consumers. In this way, he can avoid calling to houses where no one is home and significantly increase his productivity," said Keane.
The Xpreso team’s ultimate goal is to remove the friction from the consumer’s post-purchase experience.
“This extends from paying duty on imports, communicating with the courier, returning items, tracking warranties, right through to re-selling the item on eBay," said Keane.
Xpreso, which has a founding team of four seasoned technology and transport executives, is currently beta testing its technology with a number of courier firms, he added.
“Couriers typically rely on a sheet of paper with their jobs printed on it, so the fact that we give them a visual view of their route is of huge benefit," Keane said.
“We’re talking to several international delivery companies with a view to agreeing the parameters of trials in early 2014. We’re currently raising a seed round and are in talks with investors in Ireland and the UK."
A version of this article appeared in The Sunday Times on 29 December