Conference report: Metapack "The Delivery Conference 2023" London (Tuesday 7 Feb)

Teaser for a forthcoming writeup of the Metapack conference yesterday

  • Metapack and more from across the Acutane estate (including Shipengine)
  • Sustainability and Transparency
  • Which Carriers/services had stands (and who were absent)

Any specific questions–put them in a comment and I will try and answer.

Exclusive to RMW Conference blog–won’t be on linkedin

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EXCLUSIVE! Love it Miles. Thanks :slight_smile:

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And he’s my report, to close out the week

The message from Metapack

  • Featured products from Auctane: Metapack and Shipengine. The conference was branded Metapack (conference started in 2013 before Auctane acquired Metapack), as Metapack is the recognised “brand” for Tier 1 ecommerce in UK/Europe.
  • Roadmap presentation from Shipengine and Metapack (heavily scripted). Acutane is increasingly merging the back end capabilities of their products (e.g. to have common carrier lists and carrier integration across products) but it would be wrong to say that the products are “layered” i.e. Metapack is not “built on top of” shipengine.
  • Metapack is continuing to evolve their enterprise grade capability, to provide end to end order transparency from point of delivery options request/order creation through to delivery at customer, with SLA monitoring and alerting of issues (order stuck, parcel lost) to allow proactive response. If you can expose detailed warehouse processing status into Metapack, then can consume it. Also you can integrate your in-house transport into Metapack to have full options selection and visibility for ship to store for BOPIS (including collections alerting/tracking)
  • Metapack wants to be your choice for post order communications to customer, including ability to have relevant upsell messages in the post order comms (vs. using a more general Customer engagement solution)
  • enhancements to returns portal and returns tracking (pickup from home, or drop off)
  • Shipengine is positioned as a self-service delivery options/CMS for smaller customers.
  • Metapack at peak in 2022: 5.7m delivery option calls per day, 149ms response time.

Other Presentations

  • Major focus on sustainability and transparency.
  • Opening session from Richard Lim of RetailEconomics. Covering economic impacts by segment of shopper, with the impact moving up the scale as mortgages become more expensive, sustainability by offering slower shipping options, and the importance of offering BOPIS/BORIS/PUDO options that fit into multi-mission journeys that customers are making out of home, resurgence of physical retail, impacts of labour shortages on fulfilment,
  • Keynote from Jack Stratten, (from consultancy Insider Trends). Customers are focusing on delivery cost, but want you to offer sustainable delivery at low cost, and are willing to wait for fulfilment to achieve either/both. Customers are also increasingly aware of “greenwashing”, so you have be transparent to support your sustainable claims
  • Carrier/Broker “Ascendia” (La Post FR/Swiss Post) on the benefits of “pickup locations” (PUDO) for international ecommerce. Not BOPIS, more shared 3rd party locations (lockers, post offices, convenience stores etc.) Factoid: To enable collections to take off, the business needs to offer more than 5 collection points per 10k population (in your offered regional catchment). 10 locations per 10k will increase velocity. Much of Europe is above the 10 in 10k level; but customer expectations in some countries will still prefer deliver to home.
  • Panel: 2023 survival (John Lewis department stores, Shopify, IMRG consultancy, UPS) BOPIS/BORIS resetting to pre-pandemic usage (e.g. 30+% of all orders for a midmarket fashion retailer with a comprehensive store network), social increasingly driving sales (important in a likely 3% slowdown in revenue–IMRG), the importance of trust (delivery and returns handling) in maintaining conversion (John Lewis); Amazon trending to become more important for ecommerce than UPS.
  • Asda “To You” on how they developed an vertically integrated, customer focused experience for BOPIS/BORIS (for non-foods mainly), building on what was started when Asda was part of Wal*Mart (e.g. pickup towers). Importance on understanding customer missions for BOPIS/BORIS and optimising through app-based geofencing (get my order ready for quick pickup and dash if not already in a locker/tower), quick BORIS handovers, making BOPIS area easy to access on route from cash registers for the grocery shop on the way out of the shop, using in-house logistics to get parcels to store with proper tracking, and opening up the service for PUDO for other ecommerce retailers. Make things simpler for the customer to make the proposition work well.
  • Improving customer returns experience: 17% of clothing returns were down to causes which could NOT be easily solved by better website merchandising (e.g. fabric look/feel). Significant debate on how much impact a paid returns programme would affect conversion; instalment payment options (e.g. Klarna) increases basket but also increases returns (using the home as a fitting room, the customer isn’t yet “out of pocket” for the excess items ordered for choice
  • Panel Sustainable ecommerce: Noteable comment from FedEx: “mass customisation of delivery options”; challenges about measuring environmental impact of delivery and presenting to customer; sustainability has to be a collaboration (retailer/CMS/carriers), identify and execute quick wins.

Exhibition floor

  • Carriers: UPS, FedEx, AmazonShipping, Evri (Hermes), An Post. Stuart, Skynet. A couple of niche UK sustainable delivery operators (e.g. cargo bike courier networks)
  • Several international delivery brokers/groupage operators: Asendia, Landmark, Aramex, several others
  • Ireland focussed brokers/last mile operators: Several niche suppliers, all addressing the post BrExit issues of getting goods to the island of Ireland (NI/Eire). UK and Ireland have long operated as a single supply chain zone (somewhat like US/CA) and BrExit has fractured this, massively increasing friction through administration.
  • Parcel Locker: Quadient
  • Two sustainable packaging suppliers (not my area), both offering machines that built single use, recyclable paper shipping containers on an order by order basis (optional print on bag for shipping label).
  • Taxation: Avalara
  • Not present: Quiet networks (not yet marketing in Europe), Royal Mail/GLS, Deliveroo, Varamis Rail parcels
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  • I’m still not sure that Klarna is net-positive for retail.
  • Metapack for post-order communications seems like a poor fit. Feels like they are grasping at straws. I wonder if they will bring that message to the US – I doubt it.

@Miles_Thomas What discussion overall is going about Brexit? Is this just the reality that it’s harder for Britain to do business with now compared to before, or are there hopes of continued reform?

  • Post order comms: Metapack is competing against niche specialists like parcellabs to change up the tracking comms from “bare” status updates direct from parcel companies to something more uniform and relevant for the customer (email and in-app notifications). Including some “norming” of the parcel status in the order history displays (similar to what eBay is now doing). Companies like SAP Emarsys, Oracle Responsys are being used by retailers for making order status communications more relevant and providing the upsell.

  • Brexit Overall, there is a resigned acceptance from businesses who are addressing practical impacts: additional administration for exports, mitigating profitability impacts of trading in the UK (splitting supply chains to create an “all EU” route, directly importing from supplier to EU and storing in EU), and EU driven labour shortages. Gibraltar colony is a bit screwed. There is a lot of noise about the Northern Ireland protocol; that protocol has made it hard to ship from Mainland UK to Northern Ireland (bulk and ecommerce) as there is EU-like paperwork needed to allow goods to enter the island of Ireland from the mainland, because there are no border controls between North and Republic (and reintroducing border controls is impractical and would fracture the Good Friday agreement–I will let you do your own research on that point).

  • Customer view on BrExit There has been a reduction in choice of products available as it is not straightforward or cost effective to get goods shipped from EU into UK. I think even Amazon struggles with this; annoyingly although eBay has “global shipping program” to facilitate goods entering the UK from the US, and equivalent ways of working for China (ditto Amazon), there isn’t an equivalent on eBay for EU-UK (or Canada/Australia to UK for that matter). For lower priced items entering the UK, customers have to pay VAT (usually at 20% on goods including shipping, books exempt including shipping); if the "commerce platform (shipper) doesn’t collect the VAT at checkout and have a remittance agreement with UK tax authorities, then customer will be asked to pay the VAT (delaying entry*, and incurring a Parcelforce imposed administration charge of £8 per parcel). Higher priced items will attract a duty payment as well. Clearly this is an issue for smaller businesses and individual sellers. Person to Person “gifts” up to £30 can be imported free (in theory), not always handled correctly in practice.

Longer term outcome of BrExit is an uncertain longer running political discussion, running into the next general election within 2 years. The “TLDR News” channel on YouTube has a number of short, balanced explainers.

[UK one off parcel import process: Parcelforce import centre stops the parcel and stores it, and puts a “please pay” postcard into the post, customer can pay online or take to a post office, with the postcard being sent back to Parcelforce hub to trigger release–process usually takes 1 week start to finish. Prepaid VAT goes straight through, usually within day, Books and other exempt “Printed Papers” go straight through if correctly marked but get stopped and VAT assessed with fee if not marked correctly]

Recorded sessions now freely available (for a while at least)
The Delivery Conference 2023 | Ecommerce Delivery Event (