In this feature from the eDelivery magazine archive, we interviewed Geoff Taylor, sales director of iForce, who talked to us about Route Genie, the firm’s carrier management platform.
eD: Thanks for your time, Geoff. With the launch of Route Genie, iForce is keen to create a level playing field. Up until now this hasn’t existed. Why is that?
GT: Up until about 10 years ago the majority of retailers in the UK worked with a single carrier to fulfill deliveries to try and get the best prices through economies of scale. With a lack of technology available on the market to help manage day-to-day carrier operations this option was also seen to be the least hassle.
As a result, retailers’ ecommerce strategies were being dictated by the capabilities of that carrier, often having a negative impact in terms of service development and growth. For instance, if a retailer knew their carrier could not deliver a regular and efficient ‘evening delivery service’, they would be tempted to remove that delivery option from their websites, leading to lost sales and revenue. It was very much a case of the cart leading the horse.
eD: So did this challenging landscape put smaller retailers on the back foot?
GT: Absolutely. Back then the larger retailers held the advantage as they enjoyed the spending power that allowed them to contract out to specialist providers. In turn, this
gave them a competitive edge over their smaller competitors, who faced being left behind. However, time has moved on and so has consumer demand, which are both intrinsically linked to an explosion in new technology.
eD: Was this a key reason behind the decision to launch Route Genie as a stand-alone SaaS solution?
GT: Yes, it was. Up until recently there had been limited options available for those growing retailers who needed to meet these customer expectations but did not want a third party fulfilment solution.
For several years iForce has been providing logistical services, including omnichannel fulfilment, returns processing and stock replenishment, to a number of the UK’s leading brands, including Cath Kidston, John Lewis, Paperchase, Fortnum and Mason, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose Cellar. A key component of this service has been Route Genie. By offering this proven platform as a stand-alone SaaS solution, we have created a viable alternative in a previously monopolised market.
eD: Can you explain how Route Genie works and how retailers can benefit?
GT: The software is valuable to any retailer who already has a warehouse or fulfillment facility, providing complete control and visibility over the management of carriers and helping to boost supply chain efficiency.
Importantly, Route Genie has been built from the point of view of a logistics operation and not simply a piece of software. The platform integrates with each of the leading industry domestic and international carriers, allowing retailers to process and manage fulfillment efficiently whilst reducing operating costs. Users can quickly determine what is the best option for them and when, depending on locations and potential carrier service issues. This was evident on Boxing Day, when Route Genie allowed users to switch volumes away from City Link within minutes of the announcement that the company had entered administration.
Route Genie volumes can also be spread across multiple carriers, helping to future-proof the industry against the strain of future peak seasons and extraordinary circumstances. It offers full end-to end functionality, from processing collections, to labelling and through track and trace, right to the consumer’s front door.
eD: What size business are you aiming Route Genie at?
GT: By opening up a previously monopolised market, retailers of all sizes now have more choice when it comes to acquiring a carrier management platform, putting them back in charge of their e-commerce strategy. This added choice is also redefining how they are being charged for carrier management software. For too long the industry had become accustomed to ‘paying by the label,’ however Route Genie can be obtained by purchasing flexible licenses that are scalable according to use. This is a much more attractive approach that allows companies of differing sizes to better plan their service offer and carrier management budgets, whilst achieving true value for money.
eD: You mentioned previously there has been a rise in consumer expectations. How does Route Genie address this?
GT: The phenomenal growth in online shopping has seen an equal rise in customer expectations. Last year’s buzz phrase was omni-channel and for retailers it is not simply just about adding a home delivery element to their offering. Customers are demanding more and more choice
such as in store click and collect, hour time slots, collection points to suit them such as railway stations, schools and convenience stores. Most importantly, consumers now want clear and concise communication over deliveries, largely stimulated by the vast ownership of smartphones and tablets.
To address this, we have developed a feature that enables retailers to choose how they contact their customers regardless of which carrier is deployed. In contrast to some carriers who contact online shoppers via text, whilst some do not at all, Route Genie allows retailers to deliver a consistent customer journey. Also, as final mile delivery is an extension of the overall brand experience, it ensures all communications are client branded too, from start to finish.