On the Road: The Future of On-Demand Delivery Is in Motion

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So many products are battling to reach consumers “on demand” — which is to say delivering of goods and services (e.g. dinner, car washes) to a designated fixed point (an address) typically using an app on the consumer’s mobile phone as an endpoint. The emergence of these products and user behavior supporting them have led us to the so-called “On-Demand Economy” — using bits to move atoms when and where the demander wants them … so long as that destination is unmoving.

But what about when the destination is in motion? How about when it’s not sitting still all day waiting to be served, but instead expecting those atoms to be delivered on the go? This is where mobile takes on a different-than-expected meaning, and where the On-Demand Economy hits a speed bump.

See, we Americans are so frequently in motion: commuting, traveling, trekking to friends or the mall. We’re in our cars, on our bikes and boards, or simply walking somewhere a good percentage of our day. We’re a people in moving with purpose, often in a hurry. And services are going to need to address this.

I’ve been looking at the problem for years. And figuring out how to consistently and quickly deliver services to a driver when the destination is unsure means two things: 1) Developing a mesh network of always-in-motion providers of services and 2) Effectively serving customers in a place they are unaccustomed to doing business — on the street, from their car.

These interactions have informed the larger point from above: local services need to learn to be available both on-demand as well as deliverable to a moving target. Those commuters, trekkers and even bikers will grow to expect that lunch, bottled water or a tire replacement to meet them on their path. Not later when they are back at their home.

“I forgot to get a gift for tonight’s anniversary and I’ve already left the office,” you can imagine someone lamenting, “why should I have to detour?”

It’s obviously a huge challenge, and not only of logistics. And the puzzle will likely present itself in our new economy of impatience sooner than we think. Whomever assembles the pieces first may well be in the driver’s seat.

RickRRick Robinson is SVP of Product for on-demand roadside assistance startup Urgent.ly. He is also an advisor to Street Fight. Follow him at @itsrickrobinson