Tag Archives: distribution

Uber ~ It’s Not Just for People Anymore

In case you haven’t noticed, Uber isn’t just for people ride-sharing anymore. It has expanded its service to include delivering and returning packages for shipment. Uber’s new “Return a Package” feature adds on to “Uber Connect” by picking up online returns and delivering them to predetermined shipping points (e.g., UPS, USPS, FedEx) for a fixed fee.

It can be a pain to return something. And we bet you have something in your house that you bought online and want to return, but just haven’t gotten around to it. (No shame.) After the box is packed, we have to get in the car (perhaps calling an Uber for a ride?) or on a bus and travel to a return spot such as the U.S. Post Office, FedEx, or UPS. (And doesn’t it always seem as if the line gets longer just before you enter…)

Returning packages bought online is a growing practice in the U.S. According to the National Retail Federation, online customers last year returned 16.5%, more than $212 billion worth of purchases! Many of those purchases will be rejected by consumers and need to be returned for a credit.

So, Uber is now making it easier to return those online purchases. Using the Uber app, you can schedule a pick-up and delivery for a flat $5.00 fee. A courier will pick up your prepaid, packaged item and drop it off at a predetermined destination. The service is available in more than 4,950 cities in the U.S.

Uber isn’t the only company trying to cash in on a growing practice. DoorDash began a similar service in January, and Walmart offers at-home return pickups for subscribers in its Walmart+ membership program.

What are you going to return?

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who has used Uber’s ride services?
  2. Poll students: What are the issues involved when they need to return a purchase via shipping? Does anyone have something that they haven’t gotten around to returning yet?
  3. Show a video about the new service: https://youtu.be/sp_2GR2j7i4?si=Ou_6TVKONN9SCdQ6
  4. Show the news release from Uber: https://www.uber.com/newsroom/uber-package-returns/
  5. Poll students: Who would use this service? Why or why not?
  6. Divide students into team. Have each team work on a possible SWOT analysis that led Uber to its decision to launch the new service.
    1. Strengths: what is company good at?
    1. Weaknesses: what needs work?
    1. Opportunities: what is going on in marketplace?
    1. Threats: what should company be wary of?
  7. Based on the analysis, what are the issues and risks that might occur?

Source: Durbin, Dee-Ann. (10 October, 2023). Uber adding package return to services in 5,000 cities. Associated Press.; Lukpat, A. (4 October 2023). Uber introduces package return service. Wall Street Journal.

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Hoka – The Ugly Shoe Everyone is Buying

Consumers love something different, at least some of the time. But then other times, it is difficult to get them to switch their buying habits. On average, consumers buy the same 150 items fairly consistently. That means it is difficult for new products to get buyers to shift their buying to another product.

Think about it. What are the brands you buy regularly? Now, what might it take to get you to buy an entirely new brand and substitute it for one of your beloved products? It can be tough going to gain acceptance for new products, particularly products that look as different as Hoka shoes.

In 2012, sales of Hoka shoes were approximately $3 million. A little over a decade later, Hoka shoes sales in the past fiscal year were $1.4 billion. That’s a huge jump in sales and loyalty for a very peculiar looking athletic shoe.

Everyone who buys Hoka shoes seem to like them – runners, waiters, workers, teens, even grandparents. Why? Well, the first thing is that the shoe has to be comfortable and perform as required. Hoka shoes also come in vibrant colors and have a hefty foam sole. But still, it’s a big departure from the sleek-looking Nike shoes that dominate the market.

One of Hoka’s main strategies was to grow slowly. Yes, you read that right. Slowly. The company deliberately grew slowly by keeping supply below demand and maintaining selective distribution.

The company founders also deliberately made the shoes bigger than most athletic shoes. The shoes have been described as clown-like, bloated, bulbous, wacky, and just plain ugly. But, the shoes performed. Running stores couldn’t keep them in stock. And the company maximized on direct-to-consumer, skipping the big-box stores. When the company did move to stores such as Foot Locker and Dick’s Sporting Goods, it waited until consumers already knew about Hokas.

They may look clownish, but are you ready to run in them?

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What athletic shoes do they have? What do they like? Dislike?
  2. Does anyone have Hoka shoes? Why or why not?
  3. Show Hoka Shoes website: https://www.hoka.com/en/us/
  4. Why did a slow growing strategy and limited distribution work for Hoka?
  5. Discuss competition for Hoka.
  6. What are the direct competitors? Indirect competitors?
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team compare Hoka shoes with a competitive product.
  8. Students should also develop a positioning map for athletic shoes. Where in the map would Hoka shine versus competitors?
  9. What are the key points of difference?
  10. How should Hoka be marketing its shoes?

Source: Cohen, B. (22 June 2023). The ugly shoes now worth billions of dollars. Wall Street Journal.

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Online-Only Brands Move to Open Brick-and-mortar Stores

Physical retail weakened during the pandemic, and in some cases, it hasn’t come back. However, there are former online-only companies now reexamining their position on brick-and-mortar stores. Why the shift in strategy and distribution?

For example, in 2010 Warby Parker’s main strategy was to cut out the middleman and sell directly to consumers at a cheaper price than consumers could get in stores. Now they have a different story to tell – or sell.

By the end of 2012, Warby Parker had opened 200 stores in 36 states. These retail locations now account for 60% of the company’s total sales. That’s a big shift. It’s also very good news for commercial real estate companies. Vacancy rates at shopping centers declined to 5.6% in the first quarter of 2023.

Warby Parker isn’t the only digital native company that has embraced the shift. Companies such as Everlane (apparel), Casper (beds), Away (luggage), and Allbirds (athletic shoes) have also moved to include storefronts and retailers.

What’s pushing the move? One factor is the increasing cost of online advertising and acquiring new customers, making stores a viable option to finding new customers and adding revenue.

Which do you prefer – online or brick-and-mortar?

 Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What has taken place in online and in-store shopping?
  2. Why do companies avoid opening physical stores?
  3. Why are some online companies now embracing physical stores?
  4. Divide students into teams. Have team find an example of online company that moved to physical stores. How did the company accomplish this?
  5. Now, have each team select a company that currently sells only online. Have the teams develop a marketing strategy for bringing that company into the physical store to sell its wares.

Source: King, K. (13 May 2023). Online-only startups adopt a bold new strategy: Opening actual shops. Wall Street Journal.

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