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Supply chain is a key factor driving a rush of new corporate deals and partnerships in the U.S. and Canada, as grocery retailers look to compete with Amazon, Walmart and each other.

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In an effort to combat “porch pirates” and spread deliveries away from peak times, Amazon and other delivery companies are constantly looking for secure ways to get your order to you. The last such announcement cam with the roll-out of their Amazon Key “smart door” service.

The latest initiative from Amazon is to partner with advanced carmakers to allow deliveries to be dropped off in the boot of your car. Prime customers in 37 U.S. cities can match up their Amazon account with an app for their connected car, notify their parking location, and Amazon will drop the goods off within a four-hour delivery window. The app will confirm when the car was actually unlocked and relocked.

Amazon Key

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Technology unlocks new opportunities

The service makes use of existing technology in certain new car models, unlike the Key service which required an expensive new door entry system to be installed. Initially customers will need a compatible 2015 or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac vehicle with an active OnStar account, or a 2015 or newer Volvo vehicle with an active Volvo On Call account. Support for even more vehicle makes and models will be added over time.

Grocery implications

It is hard to see this being appropriate for a full grocery delivery with no temperature protection. But the opportunity to get a secure delivery of bulky regular shopping items in your car while you are at work would be a great offer for many customers. For grocery companies, it would offer the chance to make efficient use of delivery vehicles through the day and organise delivery schedules more flexibly.

Alibaba Group has announced plans to invest in Huitongda Network Co, an ecommerce retailer that specialises in distribution to rural areas.

200m rural customers

Huitongda is a subsidiary of household appliance and consumer electronics online retailer, Jiangsu Five Star Appliances. With 200 million rural customers in 15,800 townships and villages in 18 Chinese provinces, it offers financial services, supply chain management and sales online and through 80,000 franchised stores in rural areas.

Boosting existing logistics expertise

Alibaba already owns Rural Tabao, which offers rural shoppers the same selection of goods and services as those in urban areas. The two businesses will work together to improve logistics, supply chain and technology availability in rural areas in order to develop infrastructure sustainably.

Investing in logistics for the future

Just last week, Alibaba announced a $9.6bn investment in, a food delivery platform in China. It follows the retailer’s increasing investment into its logistics operations: last year, it increased its investment in its logistics affiliate, Cainiao, and stated that it intended to invest $15bn in logistics over the next five years.

We look at Target’s plans to expand its fee-based program which enables customers to have their in-store purchases delivered to home.

Customers can choose to have purchases delivered for $7

This service was initially piloted in New York last year at its smaller format concept at Herald Square, Manhattan. This was subsequently expanded to three additional stores in the city. For a flat fee of $7, when checking out, customers can chose to have their purchases delivered the same day, within a two-hour delivery window. By the end of April, Target will expand the service to almost 60 stores in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

Ease and convenience popular with shoppers

This service has been well-received by shoppers at the test stores, appreciating its ease and convenience compared to public transport. Large furniture items have proved to be the most popular items to be delivered. The service will be promoted with new in-store signage, while its integration into the checkout process should support usage.

Stores being reimagined as distribution hubs

Target is in the process of re-engineering its supply chain and stores to make this type of service possible. Last year it acquired Grand Junction, a technology company that helps retailers make deliveries faster and more efficiently. This provided the retailer with access to the company’s technology and carrier network, accelerating the work it’s undertaking to improve the speed of delivery. As part of its strategic focus on becoming ‘America’s easiest place to shop’, its stores are being repositioned as distribution hubs.


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