- A number of companies have risen up in recent years to help retailers get their goods to customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- The retail industry has put a large emphasis on the "last mile," or the journey goods make from a store or warehouse to a customer's home.
- Here are some of the biggest players enabling last-mile delivery for retailers.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit and radically accelerated retail's shift online, retailers have been thinking about ways to get their goods into customers' hands in the quickest — and most cost-efficient — way possible.
There's a big focus on getting the "last mile" of delivery, meaning the journey a product makes from a warehouse or store to customers' homes, right.
Read more: Digital leaders at Gap and Levi's say omnichannel offerings will be more important than ever as they gear up for an unpredictable holiday shopping season
For many retailers, getting that last mile right means making partnerships with third parties. And a number of companies have appeared in the last several years offering services to make that easier on businesses.
VCs have invested about $11.1 billion in last-mile delivery startups, according to a May 2020 report by McKinsey. Nearly $10 billion of that funding has gone to startups using unconventional methods of delivery, like drones, self-driving cars, crowdsourced delivery, and shipment to lockers.
Here are some of the biggest players in the last-mile delivery space:
JoyRun allows users to call on their peers to help them with deliveries.
Walmart announced in November that it would be acquiring the talent, technology platform, and intellectual property of JoyRun, a tech startup that uses a peer-to-peer model to make deliveries.
When a user is placing an order from a local store on the JoyRun app, another user can accept the order and serve as a "runner," delivering it to their peer for a fee — or for free.
JoyRun's network includes 30,000 runners and about 540 retail partners.
Srini Venkatesan, Walmart's executive vice president of global technology, told Business Insider's Áine Cain that the big-box giant is hoping that JoyRun will help it get more of a leg up when it comes to last-mile delivery.
"When executed strategically, last-mile offers the benefits of speed and lower costs, since the order is only traveling a short distance," Venkatesan said.
Before Walmart acquired it, JoyRun had raised $9.8 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase.
ShipHero enables pay-as-you-go shipping, returns, and exchanges for sellers on Shopify, Etsy, and Amazon.
ShipHero sells warehouse management software to growing e-commerce sellers, allowing them to manage their inventory, orders, and returns.
It also offers sellers fulfillment and shipping services through its own national network of warehouses.
ShipHero sends out packages from its warehouses using either national, regional, or local carriers, in addition to its own delivery vehicles.
ShipHero works with more than 3,400 e-commerce brands and 160 third-party logistics companies. It says it has shipped more than $2.5 billion in orders in the past year.
DoorDash is growing past its restaurant roots to offer last-mile delivery for more retailers.
DoorDash's white-label delivery service, DoorDash Drive, helps retailers offer same-day or next-day delivery, powered by its network of Dashers (the company's name for its delivery workers).
Macy's recently announced it would be partnering with DoorDash to offer same-day and next-day delivery from virtually all of its stores. The partnership was launched just as the holiday shopping season was beginning. There are no minimum order requirements or time slots for the service.
"It allows retailers to leverage the inventory that they already have as close to their customers as possible," Carly Brush, director and general manager at DoorDash, said during Business Insider's IGNITION: A Retail Revolution event in November.
In November, DoorDash announced it would be partnering with Sam's Club for same-day delivery of prescriptions from more than 500 stores. PetSmart has also signed up for a similar partnership. DoorDash has additionally begun offering convenience store and grocery delivery from a select group of stores.
On December 9, DoorDash made its public debut in one of the biggest IPOs of the year, giving it a valuation of more than $57.8 billion at open.
Instacart is also branching out beyond the grocery store.
Long a dominant grocery delivery player, Instacart is now powering same-day delivery and pickup for retailers like Sephora, Best Buy, Five Below, and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Members of Sephora's Beauty Insider loyalty program can even link their accounts so that they can earn points on the Sephora purchases they make on Instacart.
According to Crunchbase, Instacart has raised $2.4 billion in venture capital, and it's reported to be planning an IPO for early 2021.
The IPO would value the company at $30 billion, Reuters reported.
Nuro is making driverless deliveries for a group of retailers in Houston.
Nuro's self-driving cars deliver goods from stores to customers' homes. It's partnered with Walmart, Kroger, Domino's, CVS Pharmacy, and its vehicles are currently operating in Houston.
Users can place an order on Nuro's app or website and select a specific delivery time. They can then track the vehicle as it's on its way to their homes and use a security code to open the cargo hold where their goods are stored.
"We are witnessing an unprecedented shift in consumer demand for safe and affordable local delivery services," Nuro CEO and cofounder Jiajun Zhu said in a press release about a $500 million funding round the company closed in November.
Nuro has raised $1.5 billion in venture capital in total, according to Crunchbase.
Target-owned Shipt enables same-day delivery for the big-box store and a group of other retailers.
Target acquired Shipt for $550 million in 2017, rolling out same-day delivery from Target stores through the platform beginning the following year. Target shoppers can opt to have their same-day orders delivered by Shipt when shopping on Target's app or website.
Shipt also makes same-day delivery possible for other retailers, including Petco, H-E-B, and Meijer.
Like DoorDash and Instacart, Shipt relies on gig workers to fill orders and bring them to customers.
Gatik is using autonomous vehicles to power "middle-mile" delivery for Walmart.
Gatik's efforts are centered on the "middle mile" of delivery or the part of logistics that comes between trucking and last-mile delivery.
It recently announced it would be working with Walmart to create a two-mile delivery route between a dark store and a Neighborhood Market store in the Bentonville, Arkansas, area, where Walmart is headquartered. That route will be traveled by driverless trucks to fill orders for the Neighborhood Market's curbside pick-up service.
The idea is that these autonomous vehicles should be traveling "fixed, repeatable routes" to "move goods from dedicated pickup locations to dedicated drop-off sites," Gatik cofounder and CEO Gautam Narang told Business Insider's Áine Cain in a recent interview.
"All of this is driven by customers' expectations for their deliveries," Narang said. "We want our deliveries in the next one or two hours. The old architecture of the supply chain where you have this giant distribution center, a few hours away from city centers, does not work anymore."
Gatik has raised $29.5 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase. It first partnered with Walmart in July 2019.
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