Christmas came in May for Amazon Prime subscribers, who were informed the platform’s tens of millions of items would be available for free same-day delivery and two-day shipping.
“Prime Free One-Day is possible because we’ve been building our network for over 20 years,” reads a company statement. “This allows Amazon to work smarter based on decades of process improvement and innovation, and to deliver orders faster and more efficiently.”
Customers reap the benefits as Rakuten Intelligence research shows that over the past two years, the time from purchase to delivery has been slashed from 5.2 days to 4.3 days on average. And yet, Amazon is faster still, at 3.2 days.
Other retailers took the Amazon news like a lump of coal, with Walmart scrambling to unveil free one-day shipping without a membership fee. Target already had such a program for card-carrying loyalty shoppers. FedEx revealed it was parting ways with Amazon for “strategic reasons.”
Meanwhile, industry watchers caution about the hidden baggage that comes with rapidly delivered packages.
Competition is Fierce
Despite the cheery one-day news, Amazon still faces competition from Walmart, which boasts more than 4,700 store locations and an extensive network of warehouses from which it can deliver packages. Another worthy contender is XPO Logistics, which is among the largest third-party logistics providers with 90 facilities across the country.
During his December earnings call, FedEx CEO and founder Fred Smith said his company views Amazon “as a wonderful company and service and they’re a good customer of ours. We don’t see them as a peer competitor at this point in time.”
Mere months later, FedEx severed ties with Amazon and partnered with Dollar General on package delivery services, with expectations to offer the service in more than 1,500 stores by late in the summer, building to over 8,000 stores by 2020.
“We believe this move is an attempt to increase delivery density in lower population areas,” states the Morgan Stanley Research on the move. “… The Dollar General partnership follows a series of headlines including FDX’s AMZN customer loss, move to seven-day ground delivery, and incentive compensation modification ahead of their June 25th fourth quarter earnings release.
So much for not seeing Amazon as competition. FedEx’s annual report, which was released on July 16, mentioned Amazon six times and included this context: “We face intense competition.”
“[I]f customers, such as Amazon.com, further develop or expand internal capabilities for the services we provide, it will reduce our revenue and could negatively impact our financial condition and results of operations,” the FedEx report states. “News regarding such developments or expansions could also negatively impact the price of our common stock.”
And how is this for sounding completely opposite to what Smith had said just seven months prior? “[S]ome high volume package shippers, such as Amazon.com, are developing and implementing in-house delivery capabilities and utilizing independent contractors for deliveries, and may be considered competitors.”
Look! Up in the Sky!!
“Amazon.com is investing significant capital to establish a network of hubs, aircraft and vehicles,” the FedEx annual report notes.
That’s striking when you consider the far fewer times FedEx rival UPS is mentioned in the same report. Keep in mind that UPS currently has 564 cargo jets and thousands of facilities and fulfillment centers around the world, while Amazon has one air hub and options on 100 planes—by 2021, according to a June announcement.
Ditching Amazon as an air customer led to FedEx slashing prices to fill its planes, according to numerous reports.
As the shipping giants fight for the skies, benefits are being reaped on the ground. Hillwood, developer of the 26,000-acre master-planned AllianceTexas development near Fort Worth, announced in June it has acquired control of 600 acres of additional contiguous land. Strategically located between Fort Worth Alliance Airport and the BNSF Railway Alliance Intermodal Facility, the new Alliance Westport property increases Hillwood’s potential for more manufacturing, large-scale logistics facilities and aviation sites adjacent to the airport’s recently expanded runways.
Alliance Westport is already home to more than 8 million square feet of industrial and aviation development, including key logistics facilities for UPS, FedEx and Amazon Air. When combined with BNSF Railway’s intermodal facility volumes, these three hubs will offer Alliance Westport customers unparalleled access to rail, highway and air shipping options, all within a one-mile radius. The railway and roads have direct routes to Mexico and expedited transit times to the West Coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“This is one of the most significant land acquisitions in the history of AllianceTexas,” says Tony Creme, senior vice president of Hillwood. “As Alliance Airport and the BNSF Railway Alliance Intermodal Facility continue to expand and strengthen the foundation for AllianceTexas’ commercial growth, this new property in Alliance Westport will serve as a strategic link between these two pieces of critical logistics infrastructure and offer unparalleled connectivity to our customers.”
But What About the Planet?
As efforts intensify to move products faster, speedy deliveries are taking a toll on the environment, according to Patrick Browne, director of Global Sustainability at UPS.
“The time in transit has a direct relationship to the environmental impact,” Browne told CNN Business on July 15. “I don’t think the average consumer understands the environmental impact of having something tomorrow versus two days from now. The more time you give me, the more efficient I can be.”
A van schlepping goods to e-commerce customer doors does remove from the road the vehicles of those who would otherwise be driving to brick and mortar stores, but a 2012 University of Washington story found that advantage is erased if the delivery route begins far away and items are coming immediately, because the ability to lump orders together is diminished.
Last-mile services such as Amazon Flex and Walmart’s Spark Delivery often deliver only a few items at once in personal vehicles or small vans. A new option called Amazon Day, which offers discounts and rewards to customers who choose “no-rush shipping,” does allow for the consolidation of orders, however.
Amazon’s competition can take solace in the fact that Amazon was already absorbing added costs for fast deliveries before the Prime one-day announcement, which included news of an additional $800 million investment in logistics infrastructure.