This Startup Will Pay You to Rate Your Parcel Deliveries
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2 September 2021
The parcel problem
The glaring problem with e-commerce logistics today lies with the lack of reliable “last-mile” delivery confirmation. While delivery drivers scan parcels to confirm that they arrived at the address at a specific time – whether it was received in good order or on time by the buyer cannot be ascertained. Delivered packages left on doorsteps are subject to theft, weather damage, and in some cases, mishandling.
Package theft alone has grown to record levels as e-commerce deliveries spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 1.7 million packages are stolen or lost every day in the US. According to C+R Research, as many as two-thirds of Americans report having at least one package stolen, causing about $6 billion in losses to online shoppers in 2020 alone.
To address this, many logistics companies offer “signature confirmation” services where the recipient must sign for the delivery. However, this is an expensive option – both for merchants and online shoppers. The fees which logistics companies charge merchants for offering signature confirmation range between US$5.55 to as much as $6.70 per package. Even lower-cost options by USPS charge between US$2 – $4 per parcel.
Despite the premium price, signature confirmation remains open to fraud. Delivery drivers have no way of confirming if the person signing for the package is indeed the buyer, or someone authorized to collect it on their behalf. Dubious delivery drivers, too, could potentially sign off and pocket the parcel for themselves.
PackagePortal is a US-based startup that rewards users with cryptocurrency when they use their mobile phones to scan the shipping labels on their deliveries and rate both the delivery service and parcel condition. In return, customers receive PackagePortal’s decentralized currency called the “Proof-Of-Receipt-Token”, or PORT. The tokens can be redeemed on the app for prizes and products or services by the company’s network of retail merchants.
By enabling online shoppers to scan their own shipping labels, they hope that their system will hold last-mile logistics carriers accountable for delivering better service and also prevent delivery fraud. Delivery ratings can enable merchants to select last-mile logistics companies and their delivery drivers based on service quality.
Online merchants and retailers also benefit by circumventing the high fees logistics companies charge for signature confirmations. Instead of the US$5-7 per signature confirmation, which shipping companies currently charge merchants, PackagePortal offers partnering merchants a rate of 19 to 35 cents per scan.
PackagePortal’s co-founder and CEO, J.G. Whitley understands the need for such a platform better than most. Since 2013, Whitley has been running a last-mile logistics company in the US, serving e-commerce retailers like Walmart, Freshly, Home Depot, and Home Chef, to name a few.
Scaling with ZILHive
When Whitley was searching for a solution in 2018, he knew that it had to be built with blockchain technology – sharing information across multiple logistics companies, retailers, and merchants would require a secure distributed ledger. Moreover, the solution would also need the ability to program smart contracts to disburse rewards upon delivery confirmation. However, the CryptoKitties saga underscored the shortcomings of the Ethereum protocol’s ability to scale.
That’s when he discovered Zilliqa – back when it was freshly spun out of the National University of Singapore. Together with his CTO, Gabriel Chaney, an experienced full-stack engineer, Whitley began laying the foundations for PackagePortal in 2019 after being awarded a ZILHive ecosystem grant for the idea.
The grant allowed the team to bring on two key hires early on, helping to bring the original idea to market in just over a year. Launched at the end of 2020, PackagePortal now has over 100,000 users globally, and averaging 50,000 scans a month. The rapidly-growing startup already has plans to grow its presence back at home aggressively. Currently, only 20% of their users are based in the US.
Noting the instrumental support they received from the ZILHive team, Whitley said: “We are thankful for the ZILHive program coming alongside us and spurring us along in the early stages of our growth, and we look forward to much more”.
Want to build the next big blockchain idea on Zilliqa?
Stand to receive up to $15,000 when you apply for the ZILHive Grants here.