January 31, 2017

Report: investors spending billions in parcel-delivery sector

Growth of e-commerce draws startup firms and venture capitalists to home-delivery sector, Accenture says.

By DC Velocity Staff

Drawn by the allure of surging e-commerce sales, venture capitalists have spent billions of dollars funding startup firms in the last two years in search of a stake in the home-delivery post and parcel segment, a new report says.

Venture capital funding of supply chain and logistics startups performing delivery services has increased from $266 million in 2013 to $2.78 billion in 2016, according to the consulting firm Accenture.

In addition to driving a tenfold jump in total spending, investors are also betting more heavily on the few startups they choose, according to the report, "The New Delivery Reality: Achieving High Performance in the Post and Parcel Industry 2016." In 2013, investors made 52 deals supporting supply chain and logistics for a total of $266 million, or roughly $5.1 million per deal, the study found. By the first quarter of 2016, that metric included 36 deals with a total value of $1.75 billion, or about $49.7 million per deal.

Retailers are helping to drive the trend as they compete for customers who demand same-day delivery as well as traditional perks like free shipping. That change in consumer behavior is causing tensions for existing global delivery models and is drawing interest from groups outside of traditional delivery services and postal organizations, the study found.

"Think the way Amazon thinks of e-commerce or Uber thinks about transportation," Brody Buhler, who leads Accenture's global post and parcel practice, said in a release. "Both disrupted the status quo by directly responding to consumer needs and interests. Uber will pick you up at the location of your choice at the time you request."

Inspired by those customer-focused services, consumers are demanding the same type of treatment for the delivery of their online shopping purchases.

"Consumers ordering online want the ability to have that same hyperlocal delivery," Buhler said. "Instead of waiting for the letter carrier to drop it off in five days, they're beginning to turn to smart, agile start-ups with delivery areas often limited to less than 50 miles that focus on speed and convenience."

Examples of agile startup companies answering this call for swift delivery include Onibag, which runs a next-day network across 70 cities in five U.S. states, despite not owning any vehicles or distribution centers, Accenture said. The firm crowdsources first- and last-mile services, using excess capacity on a national bus system and ride sharing to transport packages.

Other examples are Uber's UberRush on-demand delivery network of trackable contract couriers; Shyp's business model of picking up packages using its own employees and connecting the package to the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, OnTrac or another regional carrier; and Instacart's last-mile grocery delivery, crowdsourced to independent users who enroll in the platform as shoppers or drivers.

"Our research shows we're going to see an exponential growth in global e-commerce over the next three years, with the bulk of it being delivered the next day or the same day to consumers who aren't willing to pay a premium price for that service," Buhler said. "Delivery organizations need to make decisions today to be competitive and viable in that future."

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