This story is from the 2016 Access 25: How Mobility is Reshaping the Globe. Explore more from this issue

Instant Gratification

Always-on shoppers are reshaping the retail landscape.

March 2016

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Overnight delivery has been a business industry staple for more than 40 years. E-commerce is well into its second decade and is now a trillion-dollar global industry. Combine those two with the ever-growing dominance of mobile devices, and you have an emerging customer requirement: the ability to order anything, at any time, from anywhere — and have it delivered as quickly as possible. Short on groceries for dinner? Need new duds for an evening gala? A few clicks on your smartphone or tablet, and the items can be at your doorstep fast, sometimes in an hour or less.

There are many ways companies are delivering on this need for speed. Luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter has built up a fleet of 50 vans that deliver within hours to customers in New York, London and Hong Kong. Retailers such as Costco and Target have tapped delivery app Instacart, which works a lot like Uber and charges a premium often amounting to 30 percent or more. Others are opting for courier services such as FedEx SameDay® City, which delivers in 23 major U.S. markets.

Of all rapid-delivery items, the one getting the most buzz lately: cups of coffee. Late last year, Starbucks began a very limited “Green Apron Delivery” service (for workers in New York’s Empire State Building, where it has a café), with baristas fulfilling coffee and food orders in 30 minutes or less. Around the same time, Starbucks also debuted a broader delivery service in Seattle through a partnership with food delivery upstart Postmates. Even Dunkin’ Donuts is getting in on the action, using delivery start-up DoorDash in cities such as Chicago, Dallas and LA.

Don’t expect the I-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it mentality to fade away. Google, for example, plans to add a “buy” button directly to its search results. And it’s safe to say that retail brands, delivery companies and suppliers will continue to re-engineer their processes for maximum efficiency along every link of the supply chain.

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