The history of ecommerce can arguably be traced back to the UK in 1979, when Michael Aldrich started a shopping channel on TV and connected up telephone lines, to be able to sell products to consumers in their homes. Mr Aldrich probably could not have foreseen what was to come, but he had set the ball rolling by disconnecting shopping from the shop.
Fast forward 41 years and the UK is one of the most mature ecommerce markets in the world, punching above its status as the 21st most populous nation to rank as the third largest ecommerce market. Per capita, we spend more online than anywhere else in the world. Of course, competition here is fierce and the pace of innovation is rapid, perhaps nowhere more so than in the delivery and fulfilment space.
The most obvious example is probably Ocado. For a number of years they were given short shrift as a niche online grocery retailer and ridiculed by many as having a business model that would never work, but at the time of writing their market cap is significantly greater than Sainsburys, Morrisons and M&S combined. That’s because they are actually a technology company, forged in an online grocery market that is more competitive and mature than any other on the planet, with 35% of Brits shopping online for groceries. By contrast, 2019 Gallup polling showed 81% of American shoppers never buy groceries online.
Ocado’s market development in arguably the worlds most advanced online grocery market has allowed the business to refine its technology platform and make its expertise attractive to developing markets around the world, where retailers are looking to the UK as a vision of their future. Ocado now counts major grocers from the US, Canada, France, Spain and Australia as customers of its technology.
It’s not just the grocery market that is hyper-developed in the UK. Our eager adoption of ecommerce and uber-competitive carrier landscape have pushed the boundaries of expectation in online delivery (and returns) and highlighted the importance of these services to the overall customer experience in ecommerce.
One of the fastest developments in the UK in the past few years has been in the proportion of deliveries that are received out-of-home (OOH). About 15% of our shopping is now collected, whether from instore Click & Collect services, or via pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) locations, like a post office, parcel locker or convenience store counter. These options are more sustainable overall, with several items being delivered in one ‘drop’ by the carrier, and often more convenient for customers who don’t want to be waiting at home for deliveries.
However, the experience of delivery is almost entirely outside of the retailer’s control. It’s the part of the journey that isn’t on their website, in their store, or through their advertising. That makes them reliant on the parcel carrier for a critical bit of customer experience. This is true around the world – more retailers are starting to rely on carriers to improve the customer experiences around delivery, not just to deliver the parcel reliably and cost-effectively.
But for carriers, whose business has primarily been about the practicalities of moving millions of items per year quickly and efficiently, CX optimisation doesn’t come naturally. That’s where dedicated technology providers come in, sitting between customer, carrier and retailer.
Take Yamato. Japan’s largest parcel carrier, Yamato deliver 42% of the nation’s huge parcel volume. They approached Doddle as part of a transformation effort, aiming to deliver improved sustainability and improved customer experience in what they call the “all for the customer” promise. Challenging the dominance of home delivery, which is currently how 99% of parcels are delivered in Japan, is crucial to that aim.
Thanks to Doddle’s flexible, partner agnostic platform, customers will be able to choose to collect their parcels from some of the 240,000 Yamato partner shop network nationwide, with new partner locations expected to include some of the biggest retailers in Japan. That includes an end-to-end digital customer experience from automated, branded communications to simple QR-code based scanning at the handover point. The President of Yamato Holdings Co., Yutaka Nagao, said that “[our] utilization of Doddle’s cutting-edge digital technology in the last-mile business of e-commerce will enable us to offer a completely new collection experience to Japanese customers in the future.”
And it’s not just Japan. Doddle is now partnered with Yamato, USPS and Australia Post, highlighting the truly global relevance of British ecommerce expertise. The intensity of competition in our domestic market has led to tech innovations which very quickly prove their value. These are then highly desirable not just domestically but around the world, in markets who look to the UK as a precursor of what is to come in their region, and as a centre of logistics technology development.