Amazon’s pop-up, underground delivery networks, and the most powerful idea in the world

By Maia on Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Amazon Fashion crosses the pond

Amazon hit the news for a couple of reasons last week. Their quarterly results sent their share price tumbling a bit, but for those who looked behind the headlines there were interesting takeaways on their omnichannel strategy.

Last quarter Amazon expanded grocery delivery at Whole Foods to 60 cities, added five more checkout-free Amazon Go stores (bringing the total to 6), opened an Amazon 4-star store in New York’s Soho (as reported in Issue 12 of this newsletter), and expanded its chain of physical bookstores to 18. An interesting approach for what many see as the quintessential e-commerce retailer.

“Friends congratulate me after a quarterly-earnings announcement and say, ‘Good job, great quarter,’ and I’ll say, ‘Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.’ I’m working on a quarter that’ll happen in 2021 right now.

-Jeff Bezos

In the meantime, the British press also covered the breakout of Amazon Fashion from behind our screens into a pop-up shop on Baker Street where it’s experimenting with store experiences and product ranges. Shoppers were able to scan goods with Amazon’s mobile app and buy goods on the spot to take home or use in-store tablets to order for home delivery.

First the bookshop, now fast-fashion? The key, as ever, is giving customers more of what they want. Amazon has that nailed on the e-commerce front and we wouldn’t put it past them to do the same on the high street. The distinction between physical and digital continues to disappear and bricks and mortar retailers could choose to see this as a validation of their current model. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, although one senses that a bit of future thinking on the high street could go a long way.

JD Logistics aims low

Source: plans on digging deep to solve our most intractable last-mile logistics problems. Earlier this month, it announced plans to open its Urban Smart Logistics Institute and its first project will explore subterranean logistics and an underground delivery system.

With the rise of e-commerce, increased freight transportation contributes to urban traffic emissions, takes up as much as a third of road capacity, and generally disrupts daily life. An underground delivery network could help preserve open, green and beautiful aboveground space that would otherwise be occupied by traditional logistics infrastructure while ensuring smooth and efficient urban logistics.

“The use of underground space to build three-dimensional smart logistics system is an industry game-changer. It will alleviate traffic problems, environmental problems, and save urban space.” – Chen Xiangsheng, Director of Chinese Academy of Engineering.

While this may seem pretty far-fetched today (see Amazon’s drone warehouse for more from the same genre of ‘is it real, or is it just PR’), you’ll never catch us complaining about companies trying to find ways to make our lives more convenient, our streets greener, and our cities more liveable. It seems like in order to reach new heights, sometimes it helps to look down.

Self-driving tech gets a little Lyft

Source: Blue Vision Labs

As major automakers and tech companies have been investing billions in development, the race for self-driving cars is tightening. In an effort to get ahead, Lyft – the US taxi-hailing service – has acquired London-based AR and computer vision specialist Blue Vision Labs.

Joining forces with Lyft means that Blue Vision technology can crowdsource highly detailed 3D maps of entire cities using car-mounted smartphones, thereby developing experiences at a much greater scale. These maps allow a car to understand exactly where it is, what’s around it, and what to do next, with centimetre-level accuracy.

We’re getting closer to a world where autonomous vehicles navigate our streets, drive us to work, and deliver our packages. Human error accounts for millions in damages, lost time, and unsatisfactory customer service. Though not without ethical and legal complexity, these advancements in technology may well help make urban transportation and last-mile delivery more efficient, greener, and ultimately, safer.


Global eCommerce is forecasted to reach 2.8trillion USD this year with no end of growth in sight.

We continue to see supply chain demands shifting in line with current society, shopping and emerging technology trends, resulting in growing customer expectations for on-demand delivery options at check-out.

With ‘same day’ increasingly becoming the norm, collaboration between stakeholders along the supply chain is imperative. Not only in view of a limited amount of transport routes and human plus physical resources available, but also in view of catering to the ‘accepted’ delivery time it takes for a retailer to fulfil to their end customer.

Moving goods closer to the end-customer helps to fulfil faster, more cost-effective and most importantly, sustainably. Parcelly has always been an advocate of collaboration, control and convenience and we believe that hyper-local fulfilment, smart distribution models and innovative last- and first-mile delivery options are the solutions to growing supply chain pressures.

The new age of urban logistics driven by digitalisation has just started – and we’re excited to be at the forefront of a collaborative approach with partners like Quiqup to reinvent traditional supply chain models. We’re just getting started.

-Sebastian Steinhauser, CEO at Parcelly

Recommended Reading

The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention by William Rosen

It took a remarkable confluence of ideas to lay the groundwork for the breakthrough in steam engines that changed the face of transport forever. Rosen kicks off his deep dive into the story of James Watt with this question in his prologue: “If the process of thinking up ‘gadgets’ was, at bottom, the same for Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci and James Watt, why did it take until the middle of the 18th century for a trickle [of inventions] to become a wave?”

Three hundred pages later, we get the answer: the ground had been fertilised by political, philosophical and intellectual changes that, for the first time, rewarded both the inventor and society for making and accepting change. With technology moving at a pace faster than our society can keep up with, it’s worth taking a look back in time to help pave the way for a brighter future.

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