Quality of life and new consumption patterns: a (reconciliation) possible for the cities of tomorrow?

Consumers want everything to be available immediately without affecting their quality of life in the city. A paradox that pushes retailers and logisticians to ensure last mile deliveries quickly and sustainably in urban areas. What if the solution ultimately lies in slower delivery?

Between “clean” public transport projects, massive development of bicycle facilities and local initiatives aimed at reducing vehicle traffic in urban areas, communities are now seeking to gradually move towards cities without a car. An inclination globally supported by city dwellers, who moreover following the confinement period, aware of its positive impact on congestion and pollution, and therefore ultimately on their quality of life.

But at the same time, these same city dwellers - via new uses and behaviors induced by digital technology - have ever higher expectations for the routing of their online purchases, whose growth has been around 13% per year for 4 years, according to the e-commerce study of Fevad of July 2020. To respond to the 86% of e-shoppers who are more than ever in favor of home delivery in this period of health crisis, and in particular express delivery, retailers are increasingly offering more delivery options and services: frequent rounds aimed at speeding up deadlines, intensification of support for return flows, expansion and customization of delivery times and places ... These are the levers that inevitably increase the number of vehicles in the streets of our cities, and therefore CO2 emissions! Between the desire to have everything you want immediately and that of preserving the quality of life in the city, the paradox is significant ...

Initiatives led by retailers to meet demand ... while influencing it

Retailers are the first to come under pressure from consumers with growing expectations in terms of delivery, themselves fueled by the standards set up by a handful of players who set the tone ... thus creating a vicious circle, which forces the market to redouble innovations, sometimes without ecological logic, or even economic. A race for innovation and customer experience in particular driven by the giant Amazon, which is testing many routes, from delivery by drones to the deposit of packages directly in the trunk of customers' vehicles.

If the example of Burger King in Mexico City, which has set up a delivery service in vehicles blocked in traffic jams, remains rather anecdotal and undoubtedly relates more to the communication coup, the question of delivering where the customer is. (and therefore being able to adapt your tour plan in real time) remains a real challenge. It certainly solves the problem of failed deliveries due to the absence of customers at their homes, but is of course not intended to reduce congestion and pollution.

In France, some distributors are teaming up with startups to find “greener” ways of dealing with the issue of last mile delivery. During confinement and to meet increased demand, Casino and Carrefour have joined forces with Deliveroo and Uber Eats respectively, with the aim of boosting the delivery of food shopping in 30 minutes and by bicycle. Several other innovative services in the test phase, which rely in particular on peer-to-peer, should continue to develop.

New regulations launched by the State and local authorities which put pressure on logisticians

If the State seeks to structure and harmonize last mile delivery logistics within French cities, in particular through the LOM (Loi d'Orientations des Mobilités), regulations are also becoming general at the local level and are becoming more restrictive. . To encourage the various delivery companies to use clean vehicles, some communities - this is notably the case of Nantes - are extending delivery times for vehicles running on alternative energies (gas, electricity, hydrogen) or by force. legs. The city of Grenoble has set up a Restricted Traffic Zone (ZCR), excluding heavy goods vehicles and old and polluting light vehicles on working days. These low-emission zones could soon be deployed in several other urban areas.

Another example in Paris, where vehicles in the Crit'Air 4 category are no longer allowed to travel on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. So many devices that will quickly force carriers to speed up the renewal of their fleets serving urban centers, or even to call on new solutions ... especially since the idea of ​​a tax on parcel deliveries to domicile - supported by the Association of Mayors of France (AMF) - is regularly discussed within the framework of the Finance Act.

Logistics players forced to adapt ... by transforming the urban landscape

In order to massify the service and save delivery time, warehouses - until now located far from cities - are getting closer to consumers. For example, DPD, Amazon and Chronopost now have logistics depots within Paris. UPS, he opted for Charenton, not far from the Paris ring road. Mergers which thus allow these logistics players to anticipate the development of ZCRs.

Several projects are also in expansion, aiming to replace the large logistics warehouses with smaller, closer and shared hubs. This is the case, for example, of Urby, a subsidiary of the La Poste Group. Setting up logistics centers at the gates of cities thus makes it possible both to pool deliveries by optimizing the loading of vehicles before entering urban areas and during product returns, and to rationalize storage spaces by offering different players the opportunity to prepare their orders on site, and to favor soft mobility over the last kilometer possible thanks to the proximity to the city center.

A network of micro-depots in the various districts of the city is also being tested in Paris. Starting points for home delivery tours on foot or by cargo bike, they promote multimodality and allow - via locker systems available 24 hours a day - more flexible access to parcels, thus reducing congestion.

If the market, stimulated by the health crisis, seems overall to be moving in the right direction, a solution may simply lie in making consumers more responsible. Because it is because of consumption patterns increasingly based on instantaneity that this quality of life / delivery paradox persists in the heart of our cities. But how can a retailer restrict the services offered, in a logic of social responsibility (and financial profitability) while offering an ever more differentiating customer experience? The answer may be found, once again, on the side of Amazon, which offers without imposing: the giant leaves the choice of grouping its orders in a minimum of packages and even offered for a time a reduction on the order if the delivery was done in standard mode and not in Prime. The choice to be delivered more slowly then becomes the ultimate customer experience, a paradox that ultimately responds well to our initial paradox ... what could be more logical?

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