Ubiquitous Delivery is the Future

A blog about business and economics.
July 26 2012 9:08 AM

Ubiquitous Delivery is the Future

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Kale sourdough. Yum?

GoodEggs photo

While big retail chains attempt to go urban, my guess is that online ordering and ubiquitous delivery are the real future of urban retail:

When Sadie Scheffer decided to start her own vegan, gluten-free baking company, the logistics were not her top priority. Like many small food companies without retail spaces, she started Bread SRSLY by delivering her breads and muffins on a bike, using a makeshift online ordering system through email and Etsy, and taking cash on delivery. Scheffer’s system worked when she was fielding a few orders at a time, but when it came time to scale up, it was less than ideal.

Enter Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based startup that provides online tools for small and sustainable food producers. Now Scheffer’s orders come through the Good Eggs online platform, and on top of taking orders from house to house, she now also drops off a lot of product at once at community pickup spots arranged by the company. She sells three times as many loaves of bread as she did before Good Eggs. Scheffer admits that she’s had trouble keeping up with orders, but adds: “That’s the fun part, the scary part, and the only way I’m going to grow.”
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Obviously at the moment this is pretty narrowcast at a Bay Area audience. Gluten-free kale bread sounds kind of gross to me. But this is how the trends begin! And as technology makes it increasingly unnecessary to employ lots of people to stand around and operate cash registers, it makes a lot of sense to start instead employing those people to actually bring things to your house. The fundamental fact of human life is that there are only 24 hours in a day and human beings need to sleep or we get cranky. So innovations that save people time—fast delivery with no standing in line—have a lot of potential in places where they're logistically feasible.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.