Society has been talking about the need for a Green Revolution for years. Yet CO2 emissions are still rising. Urban last-mile delivery emissions are expected to grow by 30% in the next decade. Companies are struggling to find sustainable ways to meet accelerating demand for online shopping and consumer expectations for ever quicker, more convenient deliveries.
Left unchecked by 2030, last mile deliveries – by which I mean the scheduled movement of goods from depot to end destination, typically hub to home – will be responsible for dumping a further 25 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. Aside from the environmental impact, just think about the added city congestion and longer commute times this surge in delivery traffic will bring.
Urbantz is an answer to the most pressing question of the last mile for large retailers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers: how to deliver in a more sustainable way, no matter their scale.
Our cloud-based last mile delivery orchestration platform is easily integrated with existing order and stock management systems. Once orders are placed, it uses industry-leading algorithms and mapping data to automate the process of planning and allocating the most efficient delivery routes – accounting for the specific characteristics of each available fleet and accommodating any unique workflow or compliance requirements.
The drivers’ app provides real-time mapping and communication capabilities, supporting couriers with the tools they need for every step of a delivery workflow. To consumers, retailers and their 3PL partners can present a fully branded and configurable track and trace experience that includes real-time ETAs and notifications, chain of custody, proof of delivery and feedback surveys.
But at a high level, many of these features are not unique to Urbantz. What is unique to us is the depth of configuration available within the platform, as well as the tools we’ve developed to support the sustainability efforts of our customers’ last mile operations.
These range from an intelligent slot booking mechanism that can rank delivery time slots by their environmental impact and nudge green-minded consumers towards the most sustainable times at point of sale; to the platform’s ability to optimise for eco-friendly deliveries across multiple fleets and vehicle types; and an AI-powered driving assistant to help couriers lower their vehicle emissions.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
The founding of Urbantz in 2015 was a happy meeting of several minds – all of us trying to answer that same question of how to deliver sustainably at scale and realising we shared a common goal. I was building an app for collaborative deliveries and couldn’t find a viable tech solution that would help us scale deliveries efficiently in line with growing demand. Co-founder Michel Darchambeau was facing similar challenges with his eco delivery outfit in Paris.
By combining our industry knowledge with the technical expertise of co-founder Mélanie Applincourt, we formulated a viable solution of our own and realised we just had to build it. And so Urbantz was conceived.
We quickly came to realise that the area where we could have the biggest impact was last mile deliveries for high-volume enterprises such as grocery stores, large online retailers and 3PLs. And the interest we’ve seen from investors and big brands, both here and overseas, bears out this decision.
We’ve been able to build a SaaS solution used by more than 100 enterprises – including Carrefour, PostNord and Majid Al Futtaim – across the EMEA region and beyond. With €12 million in Series A funding from shareholders Korys and ETF Partners, we’ve now grown our workforce to over 70 and set ourselves the ambitious target of becoming Europe’s number one last-mile delivery management platform.
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How has the company evolved during the pandemic?
The pandemic didn’t change the trajectory of our industry but it did massively accelerate the shift towards online retail – and grocery shopping in particular – meaning an unprecedented surge in demand for deliveries. Most experts estimate the pandemic kicked the industry forward by 5-10 years.
It presented our customers with some very specific challenges that we helped them work through, such as the need for new processes around social distancing and contactless proof of delivery. But really, it served to validate our founding belief that current logistics practices are not fit for purpose when it comes to delivering sustainability at scale in the last mile.
Certainly, I think the pandemic has helped many more retailers come to this stark realisation. 40% of supply chain costs are sunk in the last mile, but most retailers still have little visibility here, especially if they rely on 3PLs. Many are only at the start of the journey to digitalise their logistics, relying on antiquated legacy technologies or even pen-and-paper systems.
All this despite the fact that customer experience is today the number one differentiator for brands and the average consumer won’t discern between a retailer and their delivery partners. The last mile provides arguably the single most important customer touchpoint for brands and it’s one they absolutely have to control.
So as you’d expect, 2020 was a year of phenomenal growth for us as customers realised the need for a specialist last mile management platform to help them take control. Proudly for myself and every one of the team, this culminated in us being listed third in Deloitte’s 2020 Fast 50, which ranks the fastest-growing Belgian tech companies. We also opened a new office and grew our team by 30%, learning as we went how to onboard employees remotely and work effectively from home.
What can we hope to see from Urbantz in the future?
We’re steadfast in our conviction that the way for Urbantz to have the biggest positive impact remains driving greater sustainability at scale for last mile deliveries. Our mission is the same, but you’ll see our tactics continue to evolve in innovative ways as we move forward with our customers in this rapidly changing logistics landscape.
One imminent new feature we’re excited to talk about is our Eco Driving Module, which I actually referenced a bit earlier. In essence, we use drivers’ smartphones to capture tens of data points around their driving behaviour, then deploy powerful machine learning algorithms to produce tangible and actionable insights into how they can reduce their CO2 emissions.
Customers will also gain access to an analytics dashboard aggregating these insights so they can drill into driver trends and track emissions over time.