Until now, one of the main value propositions offered by local retailers has been the immediacy of purchase: “If you need it now, come pick it up now.” With online commerce, consumers may pay less, but they also have to delay their gratification, waiting for days or weeks for product delivery. But as the window of delivery time shortens, local retailers are increasingly getting squeezed out of the equation, with many consumers using physical locations for “showrooming” — checking out the products in person and then buying them online.
Retailers like Best Buy are gradually, and inevitably losing the battle with online retailers. Media critic and tech evangelist Jeff Jarvis writes:
Best Buy isn’t so much imploding as retail is imploding. In-person retail will be for (a) goods that spoil, (b) instant gratification, (c) support, and (d) touch-and-feel showroom marketing. The rest can be done more efficiently consolidated and delivered from a distance. And with price transparency on the internet, retailers can no longer count on a margin from price opacity.
This raison d’etre for a physical location needs to be enhanced and extended to “if you need it now, we’ll deliver it to you.” The value proposition changes the retail game further by making brick-and-mortar stores into local distribution hubs. The missing piece today is the delivery system.
New consumer demand applications like Get It Now and Taskrabbit are creating opportunities for crowdsourced product delivery. Get It Now, which partners with courier companies, streamlines the transaction process by giving its couriers credit cards to purchase goods directly from the stores. On Taskrabbit, consumers post requests for purchase and delivery services, and couriers get paid an average of $20 to fulfill these requests.
The consumer decision now becomes: do I spend my precious hour driving and dickering at the store, or do I spend $20 for somebody else to do this for me? As crowdsourced delivery services gain acceptance, it’s not hard to imagine big brands like Apple Store, Home Depot or any restaurant chain leveraging delivery as a competitive advantage. In Apple’s case, its “free shipment” cost and the delivery cost via Get It Now are probably similar, so Apple could theoretically strike a deal with Get It Now to pay courier costs and give their urban consumers an instant delivery option.
The rise of crowdsourced courier systems is another example of the new “shared economy” services that will connect the last mile between retailer and customer. Retailers, who never had the payroll or resources to manage delivery, can only benefit from taking advantage of this new type of outsourcing.
Patrick Kitano is founding Principal of Brand into Media, a strategy group for social brand management solutions, and administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of Media Transparent, and contributor to Social Media Today, Daily Deal Media, and The Customer Collective. He is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email firstname.lastname@example.org.