As the demand for local delivery has spiked due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, the system is feeling the strain.
On April 8, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon Shipping, which the ecommerce giant was testing to compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx, has been put on pause as Amazon focuses on meeting its own shipping needs. Citing people familiar with the matter, the journal reported that Amazon told shippers that the service will be paused starting in June.
Available in “just a handful of U.S. cities,” WSJ explained, “under the program, Amazon drivers would pick up packages from businesses and deliver them to consumers, rather than ship orders from Amazon warehouses.”
The journal noted that Amazon is suspending the service because it needs its people and capacity to handle a surge in its own customers’ orders.
Amazon has, as the Wall Street Journal put it in a late-March article, “struggled to find its coronavirus footing.” Amazon order volumes have been hitting levels normally seen only during the peak holiday season – but without the months the company usually has to prepare for that kind of volume. “The strain is showing in shortages, delays, and worker unrest, including some walkouts, no-shows, and COVID-related sickness," the WSJ reported.
The company in mid-March put a halt on incoming shipments of non-essential supplies to its warehouses so it could focus on critical supplies, and announced it was hiring 100,000 more workers. As it has prioritized those essential shipments, delivery times for other items have stretched to weeks rather than days, according to published reports.
Amazon isn't the only company struggling to meet the increased e-commerce demand during the pandemic. UPS and FedEx both suspended service guarantees, citing the impact of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, as the go-to last-mile delivery companies struggle under the load, logistics-tech companies are stepping up to help small businesses roll out delivery options quickly.
OneRail, an Orlando-based “final mile delivery orchestration and fulfillment platform,” launched QuickStart, a new service available to retailers needing to immediately find more final mile delivery capacity to support the eCommerce demand spike caused by COVID-19. “OneRail’s clients have seen over a 700% increase in delivery fulfillment volume over the past two weeks,” said Jeff Flowers, OneRail COO, in a release in late March.
Once a delivery order is received by OneRail, it is sized and automatically dispatched to one of more than 75,000 couriers. The platform provides delivery tracking and data for retail clients and consumers.
Cincinnati-based Frayt, which provides instant scheduling of deliveries to businesses and consumers, is scaling up its delivery network to provide same-hour services of goods in the Midwest. Founded in 2018, Frayt offers an on-demand shipping and delivery platform that connects shippers directly with drivers to get purchased goods delivered on the same day. It has more than 3,000 professional drivers spanning 13 U.S. markets.
“Instacart waits in some markets can be days, but we can get a driver in an hour in most cases,” explained CEO Lawrence McCord. “Our website visits have increased 250% as businesses and consumers look for other options.”