How many times has a consumer had to take an afternoon off from work to be home to receive a package that required a signature? It’s one of the most frustrating parts of the online shopping experience. While e-commerce is altering retail and changing shipping and logistics, there remains a disconnect between the two, and that is frustrating consumers.
“I bought a laptop online and it came from California, from Silicon Valley, and I wasn’t home to receive it and it required a signature,” explained Ziv Fass, co-founder of Package.AI, a software company trying to better connect ordering and logistics for an improved customer experience. “I thought, why can’t this process be better and why as a consumer, could I not be more involved.”
For Fass, not being available during the delivery time that was set by the package delivery company meant that he was scrambling to arrange a time to get the package delivered just days before he was set to move to Israel. He did receive that laptop, and the experience itself gave birth to Package.AI.
Now with offices in both Israel and New York City, Pacakage.AI is quietly seeking to streamline the entire process of online ordering and delivery through its proprietary software.
Fass was joined in the launch of the company by Yoav Sadeh, CTO, and Ralph Shulberg, vice president of sales. What Package.AI specifically does is create real-time communication between the end consumer and the logistics provider. The ultimate goal, Fass told FreightWaves, is to make that communication process happen at the checkout, allowing the consumer to identify preferable times or delivery notes before the delivery company has developed its routing guidance for the day.
“The provider would input the jobs for the day, the system would figure out the best way to schedule them, and then it would ask recipients if that time would work,” Fass explained, calling it a “mini negotiation.”
Currently, the delivery time is typically set by the delivery company, he said. To illustrate, he noted a customer that might be purchasing furniture and the store provides a 4-hour delivery window on June 27. By using the Package.AI software, the consumer could be connected quickly with the delivery company and negotiate a more convenient time for both.
For smaller items, such as that computer Fass ordered, the system would allow the consumer to tell the delivery company that the item could be left with a neighbor, or behind the house, etc. Fass stressed that Package.AI is not designed to allow the consumer to dictate delivery schedules, but rather a forum to open those lines of communication for a smoother, more beneficial process for both.
“The idea is to have a system that is smart enough … to provide a better level of consumer satisfaction than what is available today,” he said. “What we found is that people are very responsive because they have an open channel of negotiation.”
For delivery companies, Package.AI sounds like it could create an unworkable and unprofitable system of package delivery, but Fass insisted that is not the goal, nor is it likely to happen.
“[We’re] marrying operational efficiency and customer satisfaction,” he said. “You want a system that takes the most it can [from both parties].”
The software, which uses artificial intelligence to communicate between the parties via email or SMS, integrates with fleet transportation management systems so that it can generate delivery schedules that fit into a fleet’s operational schedule. That last thing a fleet wants is to be told a package needs to be delivered at 2 p.m. on the east side of the city while its truck is supposed to be on the west side.
“To work well, we need to have access to the fleets,” Fass noted. “We target companies that operate or have control over their fleets.”
Eventually, the ability to integrate the software at point-of-sale and initiate that conversation with consumers at that point will make the process even smoother and more beneficial for both fleets and consumers, Fass said.
“We want to provide you at the time of purchase a time window …to give more level of control to the consumer,” he added, noting that the conversation could also take place between the delivery company and the consumer once the item is ready to be dispatched.
Early interest in the software has taken place in the bulky items segments, such as furniture and appliances – items that require a consumer to be home for delivery. Fass said Package.AI has also received interest from meal and food companies and other time-sensitive sectors. There is also opportunity for the mom-and-pop stores that function more like an individual consumer when it comes to accepting deliveries, Fass said.
Package.AI currently has customers in the U.S with beta customers in both Australia and Israel. Company headquarters are in Fass’ home country of Israel, although there is an office in New York City. The company is raising a seed round of funding now and is talking to investors in both the U.S. and Israel, Fass said.