The last few years have been marked by hyper-growth in the frontline workforce. Exacerbated by global lockdowns, the food delivery market - just one segment of the burgeoning on-demand sector - is now worth more than $150 billion, having more than tripled in size in just 5 years.
Thanks to the enthusiastic backing of venture capital investors, European grocery delivery companies raised around $1.56 billion within the first 6 months of 2021, while on the other side of the Atlantic, the US market reached a value of $21.2 billion.
Growth doesn’t come without challenges, however. The steep costs associated with supply side logistics remain a key area of concern in the q-commerce “anything-on-demand” space particularly. Retailers who fail to upgrade their last-mile connectivity and meet increasing consumer demands face losing up to 26% of their profit.
In response, we saw major investments made in the ‘dark kitchen’ model, a solution which - if executed effectively right - allows retailers to cut overhead costs and increase efficiency. These strategically placed locations are dedicated solely to fulfilling delivery orders, enabling platforms to cut service fees and win a higher share of deliveries.
Beyond logistics, the on-demand sector continues to face stiff competition both for consumers and among the individuals essential to their operation: independent contractors. With so many new platforms appearing on the market from contractors to choose from, the battle to acquire and retain talent only grows more fierce. The eye watering average turnover rate of 500% per year in the on-demand industry poses an existential threat for platforms as they continue vying to meet customers’ ever increasing demands for speed and convenience.
Despite growing pains, the deskless industry continues unphased on its global upward trajectory. Here's what we expect to unfold in 2024.
Frontline workforce trends for 2024
1. New year, new categories
As the arena continues filling up with new fighters, expect the existing heavyweights to start diversifying. Many q-commerce companies have already begun expanding their use cases and offering higher margin products in categories such as alcohol, pharmaceuticals and groceries.
In the US, companies such as DoorDash and Uber Eats have begun providing deliveries for non-restaurant partners such as Walmart and Costco, making better use of their drivers’ time and hoping to give customers more stickiness on their platforms post-pandemic. We’ve even seen a crossover between convenience and luxury with the launch of Arive in Germany, a service promising to deliver high-end products such as iPhones, cosmetics or even a bike to customers’ doors within 30 minutes.
Expanding into new categories not only attracts new customers, but also increases average order value, allowing companies to stack deliveries and maximize the efficiency of each trip.
2. Distribution 4.0
Following on from last year’s emphasis on dark kitchens, another trend which provides companies with a solution for their logistics woes is the Distribution 4.0 model. Poor route optimization is one of the biggest costs associated with last-mile delivery, but by partnering with multiple players - i.e. aggregators, e-commerce delivery companies or distributors - platforms can circumvent this issue and gain better market coverage between urban and rural areas.
It’s a strategy that’s already been employed by aggregators such as Amazon - who announced plans to team with smaller scale businesses, retail outlets and rural supermarkets to boost their last-mile connectivity - and in 2024 it will become a key revenue model for others competing in the space. The opportunity to offer their customers even more variety and speed, without the increased cost, will be pivotal to their success.
3. More consolidation
On the topic of strategic partnerships, another phenomenon we can certainly expect to continue into 2024 is market consolidation. The increasing saturation of players in the market points to an inevitable wave of acquisitions among key players, especially as on-demand players are no longer just competing against budding startups, but long established businesses who are looking to re-stake their claim of the market share.
As fierce as the competition has become, only a small number of players will come out on top. This will be the year that the front runners really begin to establish their lead.
4. Digital transformation
Innovative technology is the basis on which the on-demand industry was built, so it’s no surprise that the sector is once again looking set to evolve.
Though projects such as driverless cars, autonomous robots and drone delivery generate plenty of excitement, the real innovation needs to focus on optimizing workforces and meeting customer demand. Big data offers ample opportunities for companies to better understand and improve their operations, and the rise of mobile learning technology provides employers with an opportunity to curb turnover and deliver crucial training straight into the hands of their deskless workers.
The key takeaway? Deskless, frontline businesses are here to stay, but they’ve got a long road ahead of them to reach profitability and stability. Even the biggest players must work hard to maintain their share of an increasingly crowded market, and finding the right revenue models and transformative tech to do so will be critical.
eduMe is the leading mobile training platform for the frontline workforce, enabling companies such as Uber, Gorillas and Gopuff to deliver learning content seamlessly to their workers’ personal devices, boosting retention and increasing productivity as they continue to scale operations.
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