No one has cracked the problem with online shopping

By Alex Wood 25 April 2017
image: getty/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

A broken relationship.

Online shopping in 2017 is a lot like online dating.

Feels great when you’re browsing, but getting the goods to your door – that’s when things go downhill.

Like a bad date, they turn up late. Or damaged. Or not at all.

Getting shopping to your door is a mess. Thousands of deliveries are missed every day, with nothing but a “sorry” card left on the doormat.

Of course, we get our Asos and Amazon fixes sent straight to the office. But enjoy that luxury while it lasts – all these extra deliveries mean tens of thousands more vans clogging up our roads, and the politicians aren’t happy.

There’s already talk of punitive “internet taxes” and bans on internet shopping deliveries to offices.

Click and collect to the rescue?

So what’s the solution? Politicians want us to “click and collect” – picking up our shopping at special kiosks inside train stations and shopping centres.

But the idea has had a major setback with Doddle, one of the best-known brands, announcing it will close most of its stores.

The idea behind Doddle was great – it meant fewer missed deliveries and less traffic on our roads. Sadly, with eye-wateringly high rents for their stores in prime positions, the company reportedly couldn’t make the model work.

We won’t pay extra to collect our shopping

According to reports on Business Insider, Doddle crunched through £48m of investor cash, trying to fix our broken online shopping deliveries.

The company claims it had loyal customers, charging them £1.95 for each package sent to their sites up and down the country. But some stores made just £12,000 of revenue each year, showing there simply weren’t enough customers willing to pay to collect their shopping.

Doddle won’t disappear – the company will now move inside other shops.

But Doddle’s departure from the high street still leaves a big question – who will fix the “last mile” problem?

We need a ‘Post Office for the 21st century’

We’re not going to stop buying online, even if an unpopular internet tax happens.

The way we get our packages hasn’t changed much for 100 years, but the way we shop has been transformed. We need to rethink the way our shopping gets to us and click and collect has to be a big part of it.

We need to build a network of “post offices for the 21st century”, one where stores are open when people actually need to use them. It will cost millions, but the public benefits are obvious – less traffic, less pollution and smarter cities.

Question is – who’s brave enough to do it?