Brussels-based Urbantz has developed a delivery platform in the cloud to manage first and last-mile operations, from the initial order to the final recipients. Its clients include retailers, logistics operators and field services providers such as Carrefour, Auchan, Decathalon, Metro and, most recently, the Red Cross. The five-year-old startup is helping the Red Cross deliver essential products across France to some 10,000 people with disabilities and other issues that prevent them from going to the supermarket during the coronavirus pandemic.
Recent measures to curtail the pandemic in Europe, including the closing of restaurants and non-essential shops, has led to a decrease in physical shopping for non-essential consumer goods and an unprecedented rise in demand for groceries. Many retailers are also incentivizing customers to purchase online, putting pressure on last mile delivery and increasing the need for efficiency, says Urbantz CEO Jonathan Weber. “We have the capacity to model complex business processes in real time to help companies and organizations move faster and meet the expectations of consumers,” he says.
All across Europe enforced border controls have slowed down international commerce, leaving companies in shortage of supply while the demand rises, creating several delays in delivery and shortages, says Weber. The most significant impact is on groceries and pantry-items, with supermarkets unable to meet high demand. Wholesalers and retailers are reporting doubling in demand and huge limitations in delivery capacity since up to 30% of warehouse and delivery employees are not able to work. This imbalance in demand and offer requires businesses to have digital flexibility and “on-demand operations”, as well as automated systems which help to easily onboard drivers, and adjust their capacity and load in real-time, says Weber.
French data from early March shows an average increase of 6.2% in brick and mortar groceries stores, mainly in anticipation of restrictions. But the most significant increase is seen in home deliveries with an average jump of 73.8% in metropolitan France alone. This unprecedented spike caused delays in the deliveries while companies adapt their supply chains and last mile operations, with news of European retailers scheduling deliveries with up to two weeks wait. There has also been an overall increase in e-commerce purchase by 15.3% when compared with the previous quarter. Some experts calculate that this new experience of online shopping might have a positive effect on the sector, as new customers see that it is possible to order online products that they usually wouldn’t. But growth in home deliveries will creates opportunities for e-commerce and carriers only if businesses will be able to quickly incorporate delivery scheduling systems, automated optimization of routing and real-time integrations between stock and delivery management systems, says Weber.
Logistics providers of all kinds can emerge from this pandemic with stronger operations and a greater knowledge of their clients needs and expectations, he says. But to have a real business impact, the level of customer satisfaction needs to be kept after the situation is normalized and that will only be possible with a proper digital monitoring, feedback and communication system, Weber says.
Urbantz, which raised a $6 million venture capital round in March, is already operational in 15 countries. It says it plans to use the funds to scale its operations across Europe and the Middle East.
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