Can peer-to-peer delivery work?


Peer to Peer (P2P) parcel delivery is an intriguing emerging trend. This is where a traveller carries a parcel from the sender to the receiver while undertaking a trip they already intended to take and receives a fee to contribute towards their travel costs.

As a proportion of the global parcel delivery market, peer-to-peer delivery is undoubtedly very small, but it plays into the ‘sharing economy’ trend, covering things from accommodation to cars and rides to tools, which is predicted to be worth £140 billion by 2025, up from £7bn in 2015.

Nevertheless, there are some peer-to-peer delivery businesses which appear to be gaining some traction. Nimber, based in Norway, has grown rapidly in recent years, and around 1% of the population of Norway is said to have accounts with the company. A 2017 EC Europa case study on Nimber showed that “At the end of 2014, the platform had more than 30,000 registered users. In 2015 the company registered 2,354,076 km travelled by peer providers, 36% more than the previous year. The platform also estimated that, by not having another vehicle shipping the parcel, the platform saved 785 tonnes of CO2 and 3,345 barrels of oil. It also saved peer consumers 86,037 hours of driving”.

Other similar operations in peer-to-peer delivery include ezyCourier, in South East Asia, Roadie in the US and Grabr which focuses on delivering items internationally to locations where they may not be available, or may be more expensive.

The model varies between different platforms but essentially a traveller who is en route between two cities will pick up a package and take it to the recipient at the other end of their trip. Peer-to-peer delivery models have devised ways to address concerns such as:

• Ensuring that the necessary rendezvous take place for end-to-end delivery, eg using a local courier to carry out the last mile
• Preventing shippers using the service for the carriage of dangerous or illegal items
• Using reputation ratings for both senders and couriers to build trust
• Several models focus on routes between pairs of second-tier cities (eg Newcastle-Palermo), which tend to be much less well served by traditional carriers than routes between major cities, but still have significant numbers of people travelling between them on direct flights.

Across all peer-to-peer delivery platforms, security is an important aspect, both to ensure compliance with international travel regulations but also for the safety of the traveller. For example, the Piggybee platform states that the traveller must see the contents of the package. In their FAQs they state: “”I only deliver what I can see”. Not only is this sentence common sense, we also invite our users to scrupulously check the content to be delivered, especially when it’s a personal package. Never accept a closed package. Also, you have the right to refuse delivery at any time. Close up the package yourself after having confirmed that the contents are legitimate. In the event of doubt of suspect behavior on the part of the requester, immediately refuse the delivery and let us know…”

While an intriguing area, peer-to-peer delivery has not yet hit the mainstream with no major acquisitions in the area by the big players such as UPS, FedEx or DHL, suggesting that it is not yet on their radar.

Peer to peer delivery and other emerging last mile delivery formats are discussed in our report: Global Parcel Shops, Locker Networks and Last Mile Logistics: Market Insight Report 2018