eBay Fulfilment Services – Why Argos?

As we reported today eBay are flexing their negotiating muscle in the UK and have signed a new multiyear deal with Argos to extend the click and collect arrangement and to add in a Drop-Off at Store service.

This isn’t the first major deal eBay have done to support their SME retailers and consumers – it’s a similar philosophy to the Global Shipping Program which allows small sellers without an International courier contract to sell to buyers around the world with practically no resource other than the ability to ship to eBay’s shipping centre in the Midlands. The aim is to support consumers and small businesses, give them more fulfilment options and make the entire process as frictionless as possible.

That brings us to the question, why Argos?

Why Argos?

Argos has a unique portfolio of shops covering the vast majority of the country. Not only that but, unlike most retailers, Argos is a uniquely old fashioned service orientated shop but with the latest in modern technology.

Go back 100 years and when you walked into a shop there would be the shop keeper behind a counter waiting to serve you. That model of retailing has long gone, no longer do we need someone to weigh our fruit and vedge, they’re already in uniformly weighed plastic bags. There’s no apothecary behind the counter to measure out remedies from carboys. Sweets and confectionery are no longer measured out into paper bags weighed in pounds and ounces.

CollectionArgos is one of the very few remaining retailers that serves customers from behind the counter and that’s a big deal when you want a service orientated drop off/collection point.

Space is always a requirement, Argos stores are designed from the ground up to be more like a warehouse with a trade counter than a modern retail store where you collect the goods yourself before paying. All Argos stores have the facilities and wherewithal to handle large quantities of parcels – In fact Argos is the famous brown box retailer and pretty much all they do in effect is parcels!

Argos have also built their store network in a hub and spoke arrangement with larger stores able to replenish smaller stores with stock as needed. Currently we understand that all eBay parcels will be collected and delivered to the store by eBay’s nominated carrier. However it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Argos’ hub and spoke arrangement could be used as a courier network in the future.

What’s in it for Argos?

David Robinson, Chief Operating Officer, Argos, told us that “Argos invented click and collect in the UK, and recently added to its record of innovation by introducing FastTrack Collection and FastTrack Delivery – market leading fulfilment services for the online shopper.

The ability for customers to get their purchases quickly, easily and locally has become the new retail battleground. With over 800 stores and a friendly face on every high street, we are ideally placed to attract eBay’s business and consumer customers to use our unique store network. This deal [with eBay] reaffirms and builds on the successful and deepening relationship between our businesses”.

eBay has the potential to put millions of parcels through Argos stores, in fact they already have – currently over 3 million eBay parcels have been collected at Argos. Volumes are going to accelerate rapidly as consumer sellers and small businesses start using eBay Drop-Off at Argos.

This is going to put Argos firmly in the centre of the eBay world for many eBay buyers and sellers and with millions regularly visiting Argos it’s inevitable that they’ll see an up-tick in sales. If you’re dropping off or collecting parcels at Argos you’re way more likely to make purchases there at some point.

A future eBay Nationwide Fulfilment Services imagined by Tamebay

With Argos rolling out their fleet of delivery vans and their hub and spoke arrangement we can easily envisage a possible future eBay fulfilment network which will look very different to the new eBay click and collect or drop-off services. With a little idle speculation, what might the eBay Nationwide Fulfilment Services look like in a few year’s time?

Argos will have thousands of drivers delivering Argos products to Argos customers and at the same time could be collecting eBay parcels from small businesses. With their four daily delivery slots (7am-10am; 10am-1pm; 2pm-6pm; or 7pm-10pm) you can choose what time of day you’d like your parcels collected.

The parcels go back to the local store and are whisked from the local Argos to the nearest Argos large store and overnight are transferred through the hub and spoke network to the buyers local Argos. As soon as the buyer receives notification that their product is in their local store they can either drop by and collect it within 60 seconds of entering the store, or they can opt to have it delivered to home again choosing one of the four convenient delivery slots.

Then, if a consumer needs to return a product, the Argos network is standing by for collection or drop off to whisk the parcel back to the seller for an alternative product or refund.

Seller’s feedback is protected as soon as their parcels are scanned into the Argos network and there’s never a late delivery feedback and no more missed deliveries for consumers and all with tracked next day delivery at an industry beating price point.

I might reading too much into the new eBay and Argos announcements and the services may never expand to the extent described above, but the new eBay Nationwide Fulfilment Service is a great start and one we’ll be watching with interest for future developments.