The Dot Calm Effect

June 18, 2007 by

Salil Deshpande at Bay Parnters sent me an interesting NYT article today about the recent downturn in the e-commerce market.

The article cites a key reason for the calming effect being the fatiguing “chore” it has become for online buyers to get the stuff they buy online.

Additionally, retailers seem to be gradually hiking their shipping costs for online purchases, making it even more expensive to get online purchases to your door.

Same-day delivery attacks both of these problems head on.

By replacing the fatigue of online shopping with the thrill of instant gratification, e-tailers can trumpet that they are once again the most exciting and convenient place to shop.

And by delivering products direct from store locations near the customer, e-tailers can actually REDUCE the cost of shipping to the consumer vs. typical expedited shipping rates.

Lower costs for shipping AND faster delivery? Now that’s nothing to be calm about : )

Sony makes its smartest move in 35 years…

June 4, 2007 by

Sony seems determined not to re-live the crushing defeat of Betamax v. VHS circa 1970-something.

In its latest bid to outmaneuver HD-DVD, Sony is reportedly cutting the price of its new model Blu-ray players by $100, a little less than 20% off the old $600 sticker price.

I think its a brilliant move. If nothing else, it demonstrates that Sony learned a valuable lesson from its first go around in the format wars: namely, price is king.

Betamax died largely on the fact that its recordable tapes were both shorter in length and considerably more expensive than those for VHS, making it pricier for consumers to record shows.

That coupled with a higher-priced player sealed the deal in the marketplace, even though Beta was obviously the superior technology. The battle was over before Sony could get its act together and make significant price cuts, thus killing Beta before it really had a chance to live.

Fast forward to present day and a Sony board room conversation that probably went something like this:

Sony Executive 1: “Instead of waiting for HD to eat our lunch, let’s cut Blu-ray’s price tag by 100 bucks and make Sony the affordable standard.”

Sony Executive 2: “But we’ll lose money on every unit!!”

Sony Executive 1: “Betamax.”

Sony Executive 2: “…$100 off, eh?”

Unless Sony was building in a monster margin, it seems fair to say they’ll be losing considerably on every new Blu-ray player sold. But you absolutely have to admire their tactics in historical context: it’s quite often that corporations pay lip service to the concept of learning from mistakes. Its exceptionally rare, however, that they actually do.

Same Day Delivery, Mumbai-style

June 1, 2007 by

It turns out in India, same day delivery is alive and well, and has been so for over a century.

At lunchtime in downtown Mumbai, thousands of men called “Dabbawallas” — literally translated “meal-carrying men”  — scurry about the metropolis, delivering home-cooked meals to executives directly from the hands of their family members at home.

The old-world system, dating back to the era of English colonial rule, is made possible by simple color coding of boxes and a  low-tech supply chain consisting of light rail and dilapidated bicycles.

…oh, and they deliver 32,000 lunches per day…

Despite the absence of high technology routing and delivery mechanisms, errors are extremely rare, and when they do happen, are usually owed to colors rubbing off the boxes from years of reliable use.

My favorite quote from the article:

Says career dabbawalla Kondaji Chowdhury,”There is a service called FedEx that is similar to ours.”

I love it.  🙂

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[thanks to Jason Crawford at Pelago for the article]

For your sweet tooth

April 4, 2007 by

LicketyShip’s same day delivery service was covered in Daily Candy today. Very cool little article describes what we do in 150 words better than I think we’ve ever described ourselves in 1000.

We may just hijack this article and make it our new executive summary : )

Launching me softly…

March 21, 2007 by

After a brief private alpha, we pulled back the curtains on our new product last night.

Owen Thomas from Business 2.0 got the jump on the product with the first review…

The “ShipIt” service, as we’ve been calling it, allows you to deliver your stuff in 4 hours, starting at $20. Customers have already been using it to:

  • Deliver bicycles, mini-fridges, and assorted furniture sold on Craigslist
  • Pickup tickets purchased on eBay
  • Pickup dry cleaning from the cleaners
  • Pickup wine from a nearby liquor store
  • Deliver a credit card & cell phone carelessly forgotten at a bar the night before 🙂

Product highlights include:

  • You can schedule delivery times 24 hrs/day, 7 days/week
  • Prices as low as $20 for in-city delivery
  • Deliver up to 200 lbs. of stuff for the same price
  • Track your delivery status live
  • Schedule a delivery on as little as 15 minutes notice

Opening up our network was a difficult decision to make, but I think its the right call. We’re finding that our users are really the best people to decide how our product should be used, and they’re constantly coming up with more creative uses than even we could imagine.

A lot of our users have been e-mailing us asking where the shopping site went. The short answer: it will be back soon, with a big surprise. We can’t say much more for now, but the wait will be worth it…

Until then, you can use LicketyShip to pick up any item you buy from a local store. Buy over the phone with a credit card, then let them know you’re sending LicketyShip to pick up your stuff. Our customers have already used the service to pick up stuff from Tiffany, JC Penny, K&L Wines, Macy’s, and a number of other retail stores in their area.

Yahoo says we’re for geeks (and that’s cool with us :)

February 5, 2007 by

Christopher Null over at Yahoo! Tech gave us a shout out last week in which he called us “Kozmo for geeks.”

Kind of a funny tagline, we thought. Wasn’t Kozmo the original Kozmo for geeks? It’s kind of like saying “Dell: the IBM for PC users.” 🙂

But either way, Chris touches on a good point: anyone who hears about LicketyShip instantly thinks “Kozmo,” and in some ways, that’s a good thing: Kozmo offered a great service their customers loved. But things did not end well in Kozmo-land, and many have been quick to wonder why we’ll succeed where they failed.

In more ways than one, we’re quite fortunate to know now what Kozmo did not know prior to their untimely demise. And being cognizant of their miscues, we’ve been very careful not to repeat them:

  • Instead of building expensive LicketyShip warehouses to house our inventory, we source products from local stores. Not only does that promote business in the local economy, it also means we can operate in any region, so long as there are retail stores nearby. Kozmo’s model restricted them to city centers compact enough that they could be served from a central warehouse.
  • Instead of maintaining a fleet of couriers, we outsource each order to the closest available, least expensive courier. This keeps our delivery times and prices low — having more couriers on call means there’s always one available in your area.
  • Instead of spending on clumsy heavyweight assets, like trucks and buildings, we keep the focus on inexpensive, lightweight assets – like our patent-pending software, which pairs the closest available couriers and products for each order.

With these “light” concepts in mind, our team has built the first-ever direct-from-store (DFS) 4-hour delivery service. DFS delivery is something we strongly believe will be a major part of the future of e-commerce, and with our low-cost structure, we plan to lead the way there. Thanks for joining us on our journey!

Big boxers have a (not-so) secret weapon in the online sales wars. They just need to use it…

January 30, 2007 by

Owen Thomas of Business 2.0 sent me an interesting article last week that reveals big box retailers are losing the online battle.

Apparently, when consumers search for items to purchase online, their search results are 6x more likely to point them in the direction of internet-based retailers than traditional brick and mortar stores.

That news shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Despite the drastic improvement of retailers’ e-commerce presence over the past 5 years or so, they’re still the new kids on the block when it comes to acquiring online customers. You tell me who should be better at organic search marketing — Amazon or OfficeMax?

What’s more interesting than the obvious answer is the idea of how big box retailers can strike back: Instead of simply trying to beat the e-commerce giants on their own virtual turf, brick and mortars should leverage what may be the most non-obvious of their weapons in the e-tail battle: the store itself.

The local store is a feature the vast majority of e-commerce beasts, by definition, lack. But why is having a store presence valuable in internet land, the world where store shelves are imaginary? Because having a store (or several hundred) means your products are physically much CLOSER to your customers, and therefore can potentially be delivered much more quickly.

If you’re living in San Francisco (or Boca Raton for that matter), how can you get an HP 5610 DeskJet printer faster — by having CDW ship it overnight from a central warehouse in Illinois, or by having it delivered in 4 hours from the nearest big box store?

Unless you live in rural Montana or Alaska, the answer is fairly straightforward. With LicketyShip leading the way in store-to-door delivery, as long as there’s a big box retailer within 25 miles of you, its like having a distribution center in your own backyard. Having product forward deployed in every major metro across North America is a feature that no pure online seller can yet match. And the big boxers who’ve got it should flaunt it.

The obvious follow-up question: “What about price?”

Sure, e-tailers will oftentimes have lower prices for products. In our HP printer example above, CDW weighs in with a price of $134.99 for the same printer LicketyShip found at a local store for $159.99. So it may seem the clicks beat the bricks, right?

Wrong. Remember, you still have to have the less expensive printer shipped to you from ILLINOIS. CDW offers FedEx standard overnight service to San Francisco for $56.10. LicketyShip offers 4 hour service direct from the store for $9.99.

So all in, it’s CDW + overnight delivery: $191.09

Or LicketyShip + 4-Hour Delivery: $169.98

Shocking, no?

The local store makes the difference. Of course, same-day delivery is a faster, premium service; it just happens to be an added bonus that in many cases, it’s less expensive too.

And that probably makes sense – jet fuel isn’t cheap… 🙂

————
Update: Owen has pointed out that $9.99 is our current sale price for 4-hour shipping, not our regular price (which is $19.99). Good catch! So to clarify, if we weren’t running a sale, our all-in price for the example above would be $179.98, which is still lower than the $191.09 price at CDW.

Twas the day before the night before Christmas…

December 23, 2006 by

A customer e-mailed us today to ask if LicketyShip still delivers in time for Christmas Eve. It turns out he ordered 2 iPods on Thursday for his kids from another e-commerce site , and thought he’d be safe with overnight shipping.

However, he realized a few hours after his purhcase, much to his chagrin, that the e-tailer from whom he had bought did not guarantee delivery in time for Christmas unless the items had been purchased WEDNESDAY, 5 full days before the holiday. Apparently, overnight delivery means “5 day delivery” around Christmas-time.

LicketyShip, of course, delivers all the way up until Christmas Eve in just 4 hours. And same-day means same-day.

We’ll be taking our last order before Christmas on 3pm Sunday (Christmas Eve), so if you’ve been procrastinating, don’t fret. LicketyShip can still save your butt…

We found a site that actually shows all of the shipping deadlines for e-commerce sites. It looks like Wednesday 12/20 or Thursday 12/21 were the universal last chances for most.

From all your friends at LicketyShip, have a safe and happy holiday season. And if Santa forgot to put presents under the tree, we know a certain frog who can lend a hand 🙂

Check Out The Frog on the Front Page of the Wall Street Journal…

December 13, 2006 by

If you have a copy handy, check out LicketyShip on the front page of today’s WSJ.

“In San Francisco, Bust Becomes Boom at 625 Second St.” – an interesting piece documenting the history of the once-bustling, then comatose, now revived edifice that is LicketyShip’s home in San Fran’s South Park neighborhood.

Cyber…Tuesday?

November 30, 2006 by

The holiday shopping season has officially arrived. We experienced a legitimate trial by fire on Cyber Monday, with our free 4 hour shipping offer attracting a number of shoppers who wanted their stuff delivered right away.

Ryan Blitstein did a great writeup of Lickety’s service in the San Jose Mercury News, and the San Francisco affiliates at CBS, NBC, and FOX also ran short pieces covering our same day shipping service.

But oddly enough, though we saw a great deal of traffic on Monday, our sales figures were higher on Tuesday. Maybe a name change is in order? It looks like other e-tailers experienced similar phenomena, as well, reporting that Cyber Monday is not actually their busiest shopping day.

To be fair, Cyber Monday probably isn’t deserving of the hype heaped upon it, but it sounds catchy and carries a tune. We expect more holiday shoppers to visit LicketyShip later in the season, as the gift-giving days draw nearer and the need for guaranteed speedy delivery becomes greater.

Don’t worry, we’ll be there to save the day : )