Here Rob van den Heuvel, CEO & Co-founder of Sendcloud discusses the sudden rise of flash delivery services and how traditional retailers can embrace them.

 The surge of rapid delivery services during the pandemic has not escaped anyone’s attention. On their speedy two-wheels, flash services such as Zapp, Getir, and Gorillas deliver groceries at lightning speed throughout the UK.

The concept is simple. You place an online order and within 10 minutes, the products are delivered to your doorstep: whether it’s the groceries you need every week or just an ingredient you forgot to buy earlier. But just as quickly as flash delivery services emerged, they already seem to be disappearing again…

So what is the story behind flash delivery services, and how can last-mile carriers learn from them?

Deliveries quick as a flash

It is no secret that speed is the key ingredient behind the success of flash delivery services, with previous research by Sendcloud showing that speed is in the top 3 of delivery requirements, paired with cost and flexibility.

Although the need for flash delivery has become a little less urgent after the pandemic, flash delivery of course perfectly matches the demand for fast, but certainly also flexible delivery.

Delivery within 10 minutes wherever and whenever you want is, after all, convenience to the utmost degree.

While some consumers might love the convenience flash delivery services offer, there is also much criticism of this method of delivery. Is it really necessary to sacrifice the image of residential areas and cities for the appearance of the so-called dark stores?

The two-wheeled vehicles that drive up and down during the day to provide consumers with their groceries in just a few minutes are not always welcomed with open arms by the neighbourhood. As a result, more and more towns are reconsidering the rules for dark stores and in some cases, this has already led to delivery services withdrawing from certain areas.

Whether you are an advocate or an opponent of flash delivery services, their delivery model does provide food for thought. After all, by cleverly deploying dark stores, flash delivery services have succeeded in considerably shortening the logistics chain.

So, how can traditional delivery companies learn from this?

1. Warehousing at prime locations

The success of flash delivery starts with smart warehousing. Most flash delivery services have ‘dark stores’ to enable lightning-fast delivery and increase efficiency in the delivery chain.

Dark stores are small warehouses that exclusively exist for online shopping, often located at central, urban venues. Because flash couriers have small warehouses close to the end consumer, they can significantly reduce their delivery time.

By locating smaller warehouses at prime locations, flash delivery services can deliver within minutes. In addition to a shorter, local delivery time, this also results in lower transport costs.

2. Micro fulfilment 2.0

Being close to the consumer is one element in the battle to reduce delivery times, but speedy order picking is equally important.

Flash delivery services have optimised their order picking. Not only is the product range smaller than regular supermarkets to save time, but products that are often ordered together are stocked close to one another, allowing shoppers to pick orders at record speed.

The same strategy is also used by big e-commerce giants. As a matter of fact, Amazon was one of the first parties to use micro warehousing in order to enable same-day delivery. The e-commerce giant started using micro-fulfilment centres in 2015, to stock frequently ordered products close to the customer in order to decrease delivery time and increase its service level.

3. Go green, go fast

Over the years the electric bike has become a familiar guest on the high streets. Most commonly associated with brands such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, Stuart, and Freddies Flowers, the use of electric bikes is becoming a staple delivery method.

Delivery by bike is one of the strategies of flash services to cut delivery times. The electric bike is ideal for small distances and offers a great solution for the last mile, as it is easily movable in city centres, does not require petrol and doesn’t require any parking space.

Plus, did you know that bicycle couriers can deliver as many parcels in one day as deliverers with a regular van?

4. Flexibility is key

Although flash delivery is primarily about speed, its popularity can also be understood by the flexibility it offers. The idea of deciding what you want to eat in the evening and having it delivered within minutes changes the mindset of consumers.

It seems to be a need that consumers – without even knowing it – have been looking to be fulfilled. The pandemic has certainly made the various delivery options: evening delivery, next-day delivery and same-day delivery more popular.

According to research, the majority (81%) of UK consumers agree that convenience is a key element of shopping via an online marketplace.

Consumers today like to decide for themselves when, how and where they receive an order. This doesn’t just apply to food delivery, but to e-commerce orders too. 

Although opinions may be divided on flash delivery, we can certainly learn a lot from it in the field of e-commerce logistics. Ultimately, it is good to keep the consumer’s desires in mind to consider which aspects within the logistic chain will result in both a positive and efficient delivery experience.