Urb-It: Bridging e-commerce and traditional retail
9 November 2015
Due to the emergence of e-commerce people can now buy practically anything from the comfort of their own homes. A world-wide discussion regarding how far e-commerce can reach has been brought up and some people argue that there are some things people will always want to buy in store, to be able to feel and touch the products. The LINK met with Mats Forsberg, CEO and one of the founders of Urb-it, a company trying to bridge the gap between e-commerce and traditional shopping in store through a pioneering, seamless and precise delivery service.
“The new way of shopping is already here, now it comes down to offering the customers the seamless and personal service they are looking for, to close the gap between retailers and customers,” Forsberg tells the LINK.
Urb-it is establishing a whole new way of shopping, integrating traditional in store shopping with e-commerce, bringing us seamless commerce with the customer in charge. They enable delivery service within 1 hour of purchase or any specific time chosen by the customer. Once a customer chooses Urb-it as delivery method when shopping online a trained and licensed private individual can choose to take on the mission of delivering the product to the customer, in real time. The delivering Urber picks up the product in store and delivers it to the customer, wherever and whenever the customer wants.
Customers are the new kings of retail
The question of the moment is; who is in the driver’s seat in retail today? According to Forsberg the power increasingly lies in the hands of the consumers.
“We love that the power within retail is shifting towards the customers because it is the demand for fast and time specific delivery in a personal manner that drives our application’s success. The more the customer demands the more we can differentiate from today’s traditional and out-dated delivery services”.
Power shifting from suppliers to customers can be assumed to be partly due to fierce competition in many industries but also to new information technologies, enabling customers to get full information about the products or services they are purchasing. As an example Forsberg mentions that 80% of all purchases in store are proceeded by some sort of digital action, which indicate that customers are taking charge of retail and utilising the transparancy offered by today’s technology.
Turning the world of logistics upside down
With a background in logistics the founders of Urb-it wondered why retail delivery still was slow and impersonal. They decided to create an application that did the opposite of traditional logistic companies, which usually build up routes that customers have to adapt to. Instead Urb-it creates personal routes depending on each customer’s preference, which “turns the world of logistics upside down” as Forsberg puts it. It’s all about connecting free delivery capacity to retailers in a seamless way. Another difference from today’s e-commerce is that products are usually shipped from a warehouse far from the country of the customer, which is both inefficient and detrimental to the environment. There’s no point in shipping products from warehouses in Germany when 80-90% of all retail products purchased in Stockholm are available in Stockholm.
Sustainable, personal and fl exible – the future of delivering
Forsberg describes how people today are unwilling to take half a day off work to wait for a package to be delivered between 1-6pm. They want flexibility and the ability to plan their day in the most efficient way. At the same time young people want flexible work and freedom with direct pay, rather than the more traditional security, which today is seen by many as a restriction. There are 50 000 university students that can get this freedom and through Urb-it act as the store’s extended arms towards the customers. Since the whole fee for the service goes directly to the Urber the users can feel they are doing a good deed as well.
“We also believe that in a world where personal encounters is vastly decreasing, people appreciate the personal delivery rather than standardised shipping”.
Moreover, as Urb-it is based upon existing human infrastructure and delivery is made through biking, walking or public transportation, the business model is sustainable. Forsberg stretches the importance of sustainability when growing a tech company today.
Challenges for Urb-it
Urb-it started in 2014 in the tech-savy city Stockholm, where there’s a great deal of interest and hype for tech start-ups. The concentration of tech start-ups create opportunities for synergies because it enables exchanging of ideas and cooperation. However a big challenge has been the lack of technology in stores enabling real-time control of their stock balance and by extension also contact with the delivery partner. Another challenge has been the lack of demands from the customers who are so used to waiting for 3 days, which they do without complaining. It seems like the post order behaviour is so well grounded in people’s mind that they do not know what to demand. Forsberg describes how retailers and customers in Paris and London are many years ahead of Sweden in this sense, which is one of the reasons these cities are first up for Urb-its international expansion.
The emergence of now-commerce in a sharing economy
“Now commerce is the developed e-commerce – in Urb-it’s case instant or precise delivery and instant pay for both employee and store. Everything happens now, without unnecessary timeloss”
Despite the expression “now-commerce” the phenomenon goes beyond immediately and into pure flexibility.“We believe that customers will demand services to be customizable, fl exible and able to merge with their busy schedule. We have seen that precise delivery is even more important than fast delivery, since people want to plan their days to be as efficient as possible”, says Forsberg.
He describes how he believes future applications will act as platforms, connecting people to purchase services. There’s a new labour market emerging built on the existing infrastructure, called sharing economy. The new structure enables people to be their own employer, working whenever suits them, which brings freedom and flexibility. Forsberg exemplifies the phenomenon with Airbnb, world’s biggest accommodation application and Uber, world’s biggest taxi company, neither of them owning what their customers actually pay for.
Satisfying increasing demands of delivery and employee flexibility, Urb-it is pioneering the now-economy and will soon go for international expansion, starting in London and Paris. Look out, the future of delivery is here.