Roadie Founder and CEO Gorlin addresses delivering during the coronavirus pandemic

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · March 30, 2020

Logistics Management Group News Editor Jeff Berman recently spoke with Marc Gorlin, Founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Roadie, an on-the-way delivery service with the nation’s largest local same-day footprint. Gorlin addressed ways in which Roadie’s offerings are providing both corporations and consumers some delivery certainty in an uncertain time. A transcript of the conversation between Berman and Gorlin follows below.

LM: While things are uncertain at the moment, due to COVID-19, it is a good time for the delivery sector. How are you approaching, or seeing, what is currently happening in the market, given your crowd sourced business model?

Marc Gorlin: One thing we are seeing is that there are certain ways in which a crowd sourced network can expand out and get better with more demand, given some of the current constraints in the world. We are obviously dealing with unprecedented demand for delivery for things like groceries, pharmacy and medical supplies, home goods and improvement items, and automobile parts. In many cases, what has been a service of convenience in the past is now essential public service.

LM: What has that been like from a volume perspective?

Gorlin: Volume is off the charts. What we are seeing is delivery times getting better, and drivers are coming on to our network without us even marketing to them. On both sides of the equation, you have demand in places where people can’t get essential goods to their customers, and they cannot be in business without the ability to deliver, which a lot of people had not thought of before. The ones that have worked with us are expanding at breakneck speed, given the size of the corporations they are. On the other side, you have a huge swath of American workers in the restaurant business and other hospitality sectors that are being furloughed and are out of work right now. It is brutal in that way. It could be a bus boy at a restaurant or a knee surgeon, neither of who can do their job right now. But, now, all of the sudden, Roadie becomes an opportunity for them to earn some money, and it also becomes an option to help, for example, a vulnerable elderly couple that does no t need to go out, as it is much safer to have groceries delivered to their door. It can also help with getting medical supplies to elderly people in their homes or long-term care facilities. Things are expanding, not only in our demand for delivery but also to help out people and make a few extra bucks as a driver.

LM: Can you describe how this pandemic has changed, or impacted, how Roadie works with retailers?

Gorlin: We are working with the retailers in the same way we always have, to the extent for things like BOPIS and delivery. For those that are going to more of a curbside approach in some or all locations, we can certainly comply with that. As I said before, volume is off the charts. When you think about delivery being there, same-day, next-day, or in two hours from now, everyone sort of hovered around Amazon setting the bar for what the standard was for delivery. There was no particular timing; it was just the option just to get what you wanted, and I don’t think that a lot of America was aware that a lot of brick and mortar retailers had those capabilities to the [extent] that they do and in the geographies that they do. We do work with The Home Depot and Walmart, and they have the capacity to get things out to their customers from stores…and that is becoming noted for volumes for everyday things that we would expect like cleaning supplies and groceries, as well as o ther stuff like home improvement projects. And when this [pandemic] is over, there may be a reset, with more consumers not wanting to deal with traffic to get to a retail store, and instead can have goods brought to them so they can spend more time with family and get the best of both worlds.

LM: What are some other insights, as they relate to Roadie’s work with retailers?

Gorlin: Folks that already have this capability set up are moving rapidly to expand more of their customers, and with the ones that were a little behind, we are now getting flooded with requests, asking how soon they can get on the network, or turned on. In many cases and a lot of areas, this is the option for them to get things out to customers, as they are not going to have foot traffic at stores. People are realizing that delivery to home is not just a “nice to have” anymore; it has become more of a “you have to have it” capability. It is not an optional capability. Outside of the supply chain, we can be used for more regular stuff like sending meals to seniors, for example.

LM: Can you please provide some examples of retailer resiliency, for lack of a better term, in terms of supply chain diversification that may be happening now? It seems like they are doing whatever they can to get goods to people.

Gorlin: For the retailers we have been working with, or in the process of working with, it is about speed. We are opening up geographies for several retailers, where, in the past in may have taken four-to-six months to get there and it is now taking less than a week. Some retailers are moving incredibly quickly, in terms of speed to open up capacity. It might have been planned for more than a year, but, now, they are being planned instantaneously. The fortunate thing with a crowdsourced network like Roadie is that if Roadie is in Atlanta and Charlotte, it is reaching 90% of the U.S. But in Atlanta and Charlotte, they are also travel in between so all of the sudden you have Spartanburg, Charlotte, and Greenville and everywhere in between. While we are doing this in San Francisco, Atlanta, and D.C., and Philly, New Jersey and New York, we are also doing it in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Eugene, Ore. It is expanding out and hitting the supply chain in places that are not last but later. It is really a chance for our network to shine. We have seen it before with Peak Season and spikes in demand before, but our deliverability speed is actually getting better. While we are delivering doughnuts and drill bits, we are also delivering critical medication and supplies to at-risk, homebound customers that don’t have other access to things so it is important to do that.

LM: What are some examples of what Roadie is doing to flatten the curve and be safe within its crowdsourced driver network?

Gorlin: We follow all the CDC guidelines such as hand washing and social distancing. And we also have a doorstep delivery option and have changed our processes for getting a signature upon delivery to avoid unnecessary touching of devices….and set things up to be able to manage the reality of the world we are living and try to keep everybody safe, not just our customers, but our drivers and the end recipient of whatever it is they are getting.

LM: When we are eventually looking back at this and all of the things that happened, what may some of the supply chain takeaways or lessons learned with all of this?

Gorlin: Don’t wait until it is an emergency. The things you are thinking about in your supply chain are longer in a world in which you can go to a supermarket and get everything you need and you can freely go out to your destination. It is critical, in modern times, to not just have a way to handle your back of the house supplies to get things from manufacturers and oversee distribution from your DC and out to your stores. You also need to know how to solve that last mile, too. That is not new, as retailers have been telling us that for ages. It has become much more virtual now. If there are retailers wondering how to keep alive during this crisis, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]. Many would be surprised at how quickly a crowdsourced network can get ramped up and get rolling because we basically cover the entire nation. We can help them get set up, whether they have one store or are regional or national. There is only a benefit in being able to get products to customers.

March 30, 2020