It’s no secret that Amazon rules the online marketplace. There are plenty of reasons for this, including their ridiculous selection of products, unrivaled customer service, conveniently tiered shipping options, and fast delivery.
It’s these last two factors that Amazon has probably spent the most time, effort, and capital improving. They’re the reason why the USPS even bothers delivering packages on Sundays. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon eventually decided to quit the foreplay and just bought the USPS outright. I wouldn’t shed any tears about an unwieldy and constantly-on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy arm of the government being taken over by a startlingly efficient privately-owned corporation. That’s change I can believe in.
The point here is that Amazon is a great solution for third party vendors who lean on the e-commerce giant for delivering their shipments. Amazon warehouses are the stuff of legends, quietly cropping up in more and more locations throughout the US, and allow vendors to store and ship their wares directly from within an Amazon fulfillment center; the vendors don’t even need to handle their own products.
But what about the smaller guys – the guys that ship just a handful of small items each week, or for the odd eBay purchase that needs to be shipped across the country?
A San Francisco startup that goes by the name Shyp is looking to make big changes to the way that we ship our stuff.
The concept is simple: users can take a photograph of what they need to get in the mail, provide the destination address, and then wash their hands of the whole ordeal; a Shyp courier will show up at your door within 20 minutes or so, take the item off your hands, and get it in the mail for you.
While this kind of business model has been gaining a great deal of traction lately thanks to companies like Uber, it’s going to be a long uphill battle for Shyp to gain a foothold in our e-commerce adventures – that is, if they want to move beyond their native San Francisco.
Even so, the company’s experiences so far have been positive. Shyp has taken off in its native San Francisco – so much so that they’re planning a move to larger facilities. They’ve also reached a sufficient volume of product that they receive sizable discounts from the major shipping companies. Because of this, they get to pass the savings along to the customer.
So what’s the catch? While Shyp can offer the lowest possible prices to their customers, they do charge a $5 fee on top of those base prices. This makes sense – they have to make sure their workers get paid – but it’s worth noting that two-thirds of Shyp’s couriers in the San Francisco area use bikes to make their pickups, which means the capricious cost of gasoline is only a minor factor.
What it means, though, is that Shyp will likely not become a viable alternative for those of us who only have to mail a package once in a while. We’ll have to decide whether a quick trip to the post office is enough of a hassle to warrant paying Shyp’s (admittedly fair) premium.
Depending on the item in question and the difficulty in shipping it, however, that $5 might not sound too bad. Nobody wants to buy boxes and bubble wrap. Oh, and many of Shyp’s packers have extensive experience shipping fine art, meaning they probably stand a better chance of getting your Like New MacBook Pro to its destination in one piece than you do.
What’s certain is that Shyp, and other courier services like them, have a lot to offer. Whether they’ll gain traction beyond the metropolitan areas they call home is a story for another day.
So what’s next for Shyp? October should be a big month for the still-young startup: they’ll be launching their service in New York City in October.
Image Credit: Flickr (via Creative Commons)