What is Crowdshipping?

We do more and more things on the internet every year. Each year it seems like a new process becomes electrified and automated. Email, phone calls, the list goes on. But until we invent teleportation or get really, really good at 3D printing, one thing will remain painfully, agonizingly locked in the material world: shipping.

Yes, the reality of the world is that things still need to move from place to place, and this process has remained remarkably unchanged for decades. Enter crowdshipping.

Making use of downtime

Much like Uber got its start by employing professional drivers with gaps in their schedules, crowdshipping promises to make use of underutilized time by putting idle resources to work. Say you have an item that needs to move to from place A to place B. Crowdshipping takes someone already moving between A and B and hands them the package, thereby making use of their unused storage capacity at hardly any extra cost.

It’s the perfect match for Mila’s business model, because our friends are already shuttling between different places, so why not solve an organization problem and allow them to earn a couple extra bucks on the side? It makes extra sense for Mila because many of the technical problems they’re called on to solve are installations—why not have them deliver the TV as well, if they’re going to be setting it up anyway!

Low overhead

The beauty of crowdshipping is that it makes use of infrastructure and transit that is, for the most part, already happening. People are already holding these items in one place or another, and our Mila Friends are already traveling from place to place. This makes it principally a problem of organization, instead of investment and assets.

A Survey of Mila’s Friends

To this end, Mila recently conducted a survey amongst its Friends about crowdshipping, and the results were illuminating. Fully 93% of those surveyed indicated they were willing not only to deliver and return packages, but also to temporarily store them in their homes for customer pickup. Since storage space is one of the most expensive parts of shipping, this represents a tremendous opportunity for savings (and price reduction for customers!).

Friends indicated that they have, on average, between 10 and 17 square meters of space available for the storage of packages, and a full 40% of respondents said they could be at home all day, almost every day.

Value-added crowdshipping

One specific benefit to adding crowdshipping to Mila’s business model is point-of-sale integration of delivery and installation. Mila recently started to collaborate with a Swiss electronic company. Under this collaboration, customers who purchase a TV, computer, or other type of electronic device at an Interdiscount store are offered the option of bundled installation and delivery by a Mila Friend. This Mila Friend would travel to the store, pick up the item, and bring it to the customer and install it.

Crowdshipping: an opportunity to minimize waste

By making use of unused time and space, crowdshipping represents a saving for everyone involved. It’s typically cheaper than standard delivery, pays the driver (or Mila Friend) more, and avoids the use of costly dedicated warehouse space, which costs money even when it’s empty. By utilizing the sharing economy in this way, crowdshipping is also an essentially green and sustainable innovation, which, along with being good for the Earth, represents an opportunity for some good PR. Crowdshipping: truly a win-win.

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