Meet Stuart, the same-hour-delivery company transforming retail

What’s in a name? Stuart, the same-hour-delivery service from the minds behind Resto-in, apparently found its name from an attentive air-cabin-crew member who delivered the best customer service the co-founders had seen. His name, Stuart, was the perfect choice for their new delivery platform – it was translatable, recognisable and peculiar enough to catch people’s attention.

But what is Stuart, and why is same-hour delivery revolutionary? I spoke to Stuart’s UK general manager David Saenz about where the company came from, where it sees its future, and how a group of entrepreneurs have transformed delivery for both customers and retailers with little more than smart logistics.

1. Where did the big idea behind Stuart come from?

Two of the co-founders, Clément Benoît and Benjamin Chemla, are serial entrepreneurs. Their last business was Resto-in, a precursor to Deliveroo, which they launched in 2006 doing home delivery for restaurants first in France and then in around five European countries.

After selling the business to GeoPost, they turned around and said “we have a tonne of experience in delivery, we know how the logistics of this works and we’ve been building some really good tech automating dispatch.” But they saw some inherent limitations of dealing with restaurants as a single vertical, because of the peaks around lunch and dinner, and the efficiency and payment of drivers during the day.

Their big idea was, what if you could take the same last-mile delivery principle common in food and apply it to other verticals? One, it will match the expectations consumers have of the on-demand economy, and two, you can really smooth out all of those inefficiencies in the operating model and turn it into something very healthy.

2. What’s the problem that Stuart aims to solve?

We are a B2B business, so really the problem we’re trying to solve is for our retail clients.

stuart_-_david_saenz_-_uk_gmDavid Saenz – UK GM, Stuart

[Consumers] want to pull their phone out of their pocket, press a couple of buttons, and get what they want as soon as they do. There’s been a tonne of progress made in the ordering and payment process, but delivery has lagged behind. Customers have these expectations that they should be able to get whatever product right when they want it, where they want it, with the flexibility to change delivery times, instead of four-hour windows where they sit around waiting for something to be delivered.

What we do is help retailers do exactly that. We essentially give them a magic button they can stick on their website or on their app to offer a premium delivery service to their customers.

We do this by taking a very different approach to what delivery means. We use machine learning to forecast client demand, allowing retailers to offer up immediate delivery and complete flexibility in changing delivery times or locations, because nobody has been dispatched to do the job until just before the delivery needs to take place.

3. How does this differ to Deliveroo, Quickup, Shutl and so on?

The technology is really built towards solving this specific problem, and we are not a marketplace, we don’t source customers for our retail clients – we simply help them solve the delivery challenge that they face.

We basically can offer a retailer the best of both worlds. They get to keep the revenue, keep the customer relationship, the data around the transaction, but they get to outsource the tech they don’t have the ability to do themselves and the logistics – which they could do themselves but would be very expensive to scale.

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4. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far?

Our technology is definitely a big one. We’ve invested quite a bit into that. We have a team of 23 developers at our corporate headquarters working around the clock, constantly improving the technology, the algorithm, the features, functionality. But hiring a really great senior team with a strong B2B focus has helped us overcome the potentially bigger problem of forming client relationships.

Having a really strong network among the company founders, senior team, managers and so forth has also allowed us to do a lot of client acquisition, early before we’ve gone out and done our PR launch and marketing. We already have around 100 clients in the UK, ranging from your small, local independent all the way up to big national retailers. Using those relationships early to create a base of clients on which we can build once we come out with our marketing efforts has been key.

5. Where do you see Stuart being in five years’ time?

Our vision is big; it’s certainly global. Really our view is a product-based solution that applies to everyone so we can see ourselves partnering with everybody, from the biggest delivery company who do international deliveries, working with companies along every segment or vertical you can think of. Our view is essentially everything, everywhere.

Hiring your own fleet of drivers is a different model, probably not the right one for us. I’d never rule anything out, but the view is to use the agency platform model that we currently have.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before Stuart launched?

The long-sale cycle when dealing with big, international companies was something that I, personally, didn’t fully appreciate. You have to be a little bit patient in the early days when you’re dying to get started. You get really positive feedback from the people you’re dealing with, but it can be a process just to go live. I think tempering our impatience has been a big lesson from the early days.

Retailers have their own internal schedules, where decisions can only be made by certain decision-makers in supply chain, marketing, technology and so on. It became clear that anything we can do to remove earlier barriers to adoption, the better.

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