Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Mar 13, 2024

Revving Up the Speed of E-Commerce Delivery


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Ravi Shanker, Morgan Stanley’s Freight Transportation analyst. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I’ll discuss what’s happening in the eCommerce parcel delivery space. 

It’s Wednesday, March 13, at 10 AM in New York.

Most people love the convenience of online shopping. You click, you pay. Next thing you know, your doorbell rings. Turns out, we’ve become so used to this kind of instant gratification that many customers now abandon an online cart – if the delivery process takes too long. 

E-Commerce parcel delivery companies are taking notice of consumers' growing impatience and are putting a lot of effort into making parcel transit shorter, faster and tighter. A couple of factors drive this trend. First, we have the retailers’ desire to store inventory at more locations; closer to the end-consumer versus the centralized, nationalized distribution centers of the old model. Second, connecting those inventory locations quickly, easily and cheaply by truck rather than long-haul transportation modes like air or rail. As a result, companies can offer consumers one-day or same-day delivery in a highly cost-effective manner.

This means a shift from long-distance transit via air towards ground transportation – be it express or non-express ground. Such a transition could be a drag on margins at major parcel companies. These players are fully aware of the risk; and they’re making their own structural changes and downsizing their air business. However, even as big parcel companies are trying to keep up with the times and evolving consumer pressures, the transition from long-haul air to short-haul truck makes parcel delivery a less complex operation to run – and that may attract more competitors over time.

Another factor at play is the continued popularity of curbside pickup, also known as Click And Collect or even delivery from the store – these are options that became ubiquitous during the pandemic. Even post-pandemic, major retailers have been attempting to move inventory closer to customers and lowering the cost to ship to homes by treating their physical brick and mortar stores as last-mile fulfillment options.

As inventories have been getting leaner over the last few quarters, Click & Collect, Ship from Store, and other similar services have seen their popularity rise. Indeed, several retailers have expanded their physical footprint to accommodate these options. Or they have leveraged their current stores to offer more of these capabilities.

We think this could have a significant impact on eCommerce supply chains for incumbent parcel companies. In the current long-distance eCommerce supply chain model, the long-haul middle-mile portion accounts for the bulk of the profitability for a parcel carrier. By substituting that middle-mile parcel move with regular inventory channel fill, parcel companies could be effectively excluded from the process, in our view. Given their entrenched long-haul networks, it could be difficult for the parcel companies to be consistently profitable doing last-mile deliveries alone. Instead, this last mile delivery market could go to delivery companies, regional delivery providers, or even in-house delivery solutions.

This is a rapidly evolving landscape, and we’ll continue to keep you updated on major new developments.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Our Freight Transportation & Airlines Analyst unboxes the latest trends around parcel transit times and systems in the U.S. and their impact on the future of e-commerce supply chains.