Savvy delivery

Online trading is flourishing. This is all the more true in times when people are forced to order goods frequently from home or the office because of the corona virus. Logistics is struggling - especially on the last mile. Fortunately, there are delivery concepts that have what it takes for the future of transport. Also at METRO.


Inner-city people know: parking space is scarce, loading and unloading is almost impossible, and access regulations are strict. The consequence for parcel service providers? Delivery trucks parked all over the place and in a hurry. An overloaded urban area that is not prepared for the onslaught of goods ordered online. Quite contrary! City centres are supposed to be relieved. Traffic is supposed to rerouted or, better yet, avoided altogether. That leaves fewer and fewer options for the daily exchange of parcels along the pavements. Since experts assume that every single household will become a potential recipient of goods in the future, a logistical conflict of objectives is looming. The last mile is especially troublesome. The final section up to the handover of goods is particularly time-consuming, expensive and tricky for the parcel service providers. We looked at delivery concepts that promise a way out of this hot mess:

Delivery bikes

Urban noise and particulate matter limits are too high. Delivery bikes are a great solution to this problem. In Hamburg, for example, Hermes recently launched a three-month pilot project with delivery bikes and mobile distribution centres for the last mile. By 2025, the company wants to provide the 80 largest city centres in Germany with emission-free delivery. The city of Bremen has also set up a distribution station in the city centre in collaboration with a major logistics company. From that location, the consignments are then transported to the recipients by electric vehicles, e-scooters or delivery bikes. However, it is difficult to find suitable locations for such depots.


Frankfurt’s public transport companies and the logistics company Hermes are not the only ones who have tried their hands at transporting parcels using the city’s railway systems – an idea that is not all that new. For example, the Berlin tramway delivered parcels to people until 1935. During the test phase in Frankfurt, two passenger-free trams carried two crates and 50 parcels each from the Gutleut quarter to the trade fair every day. Recently, a windowless freight tram without seats has also been making its way through Dresden, carrying parts for the E-Golf production site.


In Amsterdam, freight has been distributed via its canals for years. Venice also relies on floating, low-emission courier services. In Gothenburg, barges loaded outside the city recently started using the Göta Alv river to transport goods to the city centre. Bicycles and electric transporters take over the last few metres of delivering the goods.


Amazon Germany CEO Ralf Kleber recently stated in an interview with the ‘Deutsche Verkehrs-Zeitung’ (German Traffic Newspaper) that CO2 emissions caused by delivery could be minimised by successful delivery at the first attempt. But especially in Germany it is still frowned upon to take a few steps to receive goods at the first attempt.

In Poland this has long been common practice thanks to so-called multi-drop delivery: several parcels are sent together to parcel machines or parcel shops, where they can be conveniently picked up by the recipient around the clock. US retail giant Walmart also relies on human resources. Instead of investing in technology, it lets its employees deliver online purchases on the way home from work. Voluntarily, of course.


Sustainability in logistics is an essential part of the value chain - also for the wholesale sector. And electromobility  is a topic of the future that also concerns the retail sector: An environmentally friendly delivery fleet of the wholesaler METRO is available in Austria, the Netherlands and France.  In the greater Vienna area, METRO has been on the road since 2017 with e-vans, the METRO Express, which delivers to gastronomy customers within three hours. Demand and sustained success are high: this service has now also been available in Graz, Salzburg and Linz for more than two years. A further fully electric 28-tonne E-truck also handles the delivery of goods to METRO stores in the greater Vienna area.


In Zurich, for example, Mercedes-Benz, the US drone system developer Matternet and the Swiss online marketplace siroop tested delivery by air. Results: Drones are particularly suitable for recipients in off-road locations or very mountainous areas and for transporting medicine and food. They are (still) unsuitable for large and heavy packages.


Similarly, Amazon users in the USA can have their ordered goods delivered to their trunk. This service, called Amazon Key, now also offers to give parcel carriers a digital key to recipients’ homes so that they can place orders in the hallway, even when no one is at home.

A fewfigures*:

  • In 2018, 3.5 billion packages were delivered in Germany. In ten years, this figure will rise to nine billion parcels.
  • This will also increase the demand for delivery drivers to 200,000, compared to 90,000 drivers in 2018.
  • Most consumers order on the weekend. 30 per cent more deliveries are made on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Almost twice as many delivery drivers are needed at the beginning of the week.
  • 77 per cent of consumers would consider incentives for deliveries with e-cars or bicycles.
  • 75 per cent of consumers would consider deliveries to retailers during the night.
  • Experts predict that within the next two years the traditional at-home delivery service will already be a luxury good, which will only be available for an extra charge.

* Data derived from Oliver Wyman’s analysis ‘Last Mile 2028’ and from PwC’s study ‘Breakthroughs on the Last Mile – New Paths for Urban Logistics’.

Further articles