When U.K. food convenience retailer Co-op began its e-commerce journey in 2019, it had no idea that the partners it was choosing for that journey would help it successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, but they did just that.

Bringg, a delivery and fulfillment cloud platform provider, and Naveo Commerce, developer of the Connected Commerce online grocery platform, had worked to onboard 32 Co-op locations by the end of 2019. By the end of 2020, that number reached 800 out of necessity, and those locations were offering one-hour delivery at a 20% price reduction compared to pre-pandemic delivery services.

“We continue to look for new ways to innovate and expand access to our products, and with our stores located closer to our customers, Co-op is in a unique position to offer on-demand convenience. Our model ensures that our stores are at the heart of the operation to enable fast, easy, on-demand convenience,” said Chris Conway, head of e-commerce at Co-op.

Co-op has started to roll out zero-emission electric vehicles to its fleets with plans to replace its entire fleet by 2025, but the success to the lower cost per delivery is in part due to better route optimization that leads to fewer miles driven.

“Technology innovators have risen to the challenges of last-mile delivery, especially during COVID, to meet customer needs,” said Guy Bloch, CEO of Bringg. “Improving efficiency and minimizing environmental impact are two critical issues business leaders face, and we are thrilled to be able to provide Co-op with a platform that helps address and solve both of these areas. We are excited to collaborate with Co-op to create a smoother delivery handover process and look forward to our continued partnership.”

Daniela Perlmutter, senior vice president of marketing for Bringg, told Modern Shipper the environmental impact of fewer miles driven and the reduction of paper processes are often things retailers don’t factor in when choosing a delivery fulfillment platform.

“That’s where sustainability comes into play because as you do things in a more automated way, you do things with less paper,” she said. “It’s the ability to partner with fleets that are more [geared to being] green fleets and design those fleet deliveries in a sustainable way.”

Bringg, she said, provides that technology stack to make delivery optimization work in a sustainable way. In Co-op’s case, the technology can suggest the delivery be made by walkers in areas where that makes the most sense. It also helps when the business can ship from a store. Ship from store is as much as 30% less carbon emission intensive than shipping from a warehouse, Bringg said.

The technology is able to accommodate local restrictions, such as a service area that only accepts zero-emissions delivery vehicles. E-commerce businesses can’t scale in 2021 without this intelligence, Perlmutter noted.

In the case of Co-op, “they’ve taken sustainability as a fundamental basis of how they do business,” Perlmutter said. Co-op grew e-commerce sales twentyfold in 2020.

“I believe that sustainability has to be part of a company’s mission and vision,” Perlmutter added. “The technology has to serve the sustainability.

“Sustainability is not a single play — it’s very easy to go first and talk about electric vehicles because it’s what we see up front,” she added, “but sustainability has so many facets, which is why I think it goes back to the omnichannel experience. You need the consumer to be aware of it and choose a sustainable [delivery] method. You need retailers to batch orders together to help with this. If they do, you’re able … to send full truckloads and optimize the capacity. You have fewer trucks on the road and less carbon emissions.”

If consumers are aware of the option to batch orders by delaying delivery a day or two, they are more willing to opt in for a more sustainable delivery program, Perlmutter said.

All of this is only possible with technology that manages all aspects of a delivery program, though.

“The number of variables and factors that you need to take into consideration for delivery, whether it is the type of vehicle, the driver, the urban regulations, the address of customers, the value, the profile of the customer, [makes technology a must],” Perlmutter noted.

On-demand and last-mile delivery is only part of the omnichannel experience, Perlmutter said. “The consumer needs to know that when they shop, when will their purchase be delivered and can it be tracked from start to end,” she said.

In the case of Co-op, the combination of Bringg and Naveo has allowed the retailer to grow its e-commerce business quickly — and to have done so successfully. In post-purchase surveys, Perlmutter said Co-op’s customers have given it an 89.3 rating, meaning nearly nine out of 10 customers have been satisfied with the service.

And that was no small task as Co-op runs its own internal fleet but also works with four additional delivery fleets, creating additional complexities in managing the process.

“All those factors put together, if you don’t do it with technology [it’s not possible],” Perlmutter said.

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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