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On-demand delivery: ‘What Amazon started, COVID finished’

Roadie saw demand for its on-demand delivery services explode during the pandemic; CEO says no going back

“On-the-way” delivery service Roadie saw growth exceed 4x in 2020 as retailers shifted to same-day delivery of online orders, and founder and CEO Marc Gorlin says there is no going back for the retail industry. (Photo: Roadie)

The pandemic-fueled e-commerce delivery boom ensnared small and large retailers alike. For many of the bigger retailers, though, the ability to scale delivery operations quickly helped them respond in near real time. For those retailers that worked with third-party delivery companies, that scale came even faster.

“It was pretty easy to scale because new drivers got activated and our older drivers were engaged,” explained Marc Gorlin, founder and CEO of Roadie. “[It’s] the ability to flex in the same way you do during big retail seasons [like holiday shopping].”

Roadie is an “on-the-way” delivery platform that counts some of the nation’s largest retailers among its clients. The company leverages technology and gig economy drivers to handle last-mile, on-demand and same-day deliveries.

“Roadie thrives on episodic use of our drivers and with that, it allowed us to scale more easily during the pandemic,” Gorlin said. “We had days where it was 2,000% or 3,000% higher [volumes] than it might have been before the pandemic.”

The Home Depot (NYSE:HD) is an investor in Roadie and one of its largest customers. During the pandemic, Roadie expanded its services for the home improvement giant in March by expanding same-day delivery to 600 Home Depot stores. It added 300 more stores in April and by the end of 2020, Roadie was handling same-day delivery at over 1,300 Home Depot locations.

It was the same story at Tractor Supply, which integrated its e-commerce platform with Roadie’s technology in less than two weeks. Now Roadie handles delivery services for over 1,900 Tractor Supply locations.

Roadie crowdsources available drivers and has access to vehicles of all types, from small cars to box trucks. While gig economy drivers tend to work for multiple platforms, Gorlin said a Roadie survey of its drivers last year found that 60% only drive for Roadie. A percentage actually work for the retailers and make deliveries of online orders after their shifts are over, giving Roadie’s drivers the nickname “on-the-way” drivers.

Gorlin said Roadie grew fourfold in 2020, adding over 5,000 store locations to now service over 15,000 locations. Best Buy and Advanced Auto are also clients. The company claims 98% successful delivery and has 200,000 drivers in its network covering 20,000 U.S. ZIP codes.

We’re not going to snap back to pre-COVID conditions. There was pre-COVID and post-COVID, but now there is just now. And retailers know this.

Marc Gorlin, founder & CEO of Roadie

Roadie’s technology is plug and play through an application programming interface and integrates directly into the retailer’s system.

Gorlin said any idea that Roadie’s services will not be needed moving forward is mistaken.

“We’re not going to snap back to pre-COVID conditions,” he said. “There was pre-COVID and post-COVID, but now there is just now. And retailers know this.”

Gorlin added that even though there will be some return to normal at some point, consumers have now become accustomed to what e-commerce can provide.

“I think a lot of conveniences have been found,” he said. “This has definitely sped up e-commerce. The way I look at it, what Amazon started, COVID finished.”

Roadie has raised $62 million in funding, including $37 million from an investor group led by The Home Depot in March 2019.

Click for more Modern Shipper articles by Brian Straight.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected].