How 3 SMEs Built Successful Delivery Services in 2020: Interview with Jack Underwood from Circuit

Payment delivery

There have been countless unexpected consequences of 2020’s Covid-19 lockdowns, from the decline in cash usage to the boost in eCommerce. But with many hotel, restaurant, and cafe (HORECA) businesses and retailers having closed their doors for months in a row – and seeing reduced footfall even when open – one of the biggest changes is that these businesses need to service customers at home. For many who were new to delivery, this has meant a steep learning curve.

We spoke to Jack Underwood, co-founder and CEO at Circuit – a delivery management tool that helps small businesses plan, schedule, and complete delivery runs. His company has been active and involved with the small business world, working with food service and retail outlets who have had to launch brand new delivery operations.

Jack talked to us about some of the small business owners he’s met who have successfully made the transition to delivery – and we hear about some of the challenges they’ve faced in the process of making this switch.

Note: If you’re looking to add a webshop to your business model, start accepting online payments, or try out a new mobile contactless terminal, contact CCV today. We work with SMEs in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany – and our team can help you get set up quickly and easily.

Starting off with Delivery: The Challenges for Small Businesses

Setting up a delivery service from scratch is not an easy job at the best of times for small businesses. Yet, during the coronavirus lockdowns in the spring of 2020, small companies were forced to make the switch immediately – and under pretty stressful circumstances.

“In the second quarter of this year, Circuit saw ten times as many SMEs spin up their own delivery operations as in the first quarter,” Jack tells us. “And, for many of them, adding delivery was really a case of do-or-die.”

However, there are a lot of challenges to overcome. Firstly, the question of where to source delivery drivers. Third-party delivery services like (called Thuisbezorgd in the Netherlands) and UberEats seem like a good option for HORECA businesses, but they remove the personal touch and take a big commission. So, many SMEs have started doing deliveries themselves, hiring teams to help them.

But as Jack points out, managing a delivery team can be a logistical nightmare. “We’ve seen many more SMEs needing help with their route planning, for example, because it takes hours for a small business owner to pore over maps and find the quickest way from A to B to C,” he says. “Not only does this show that more businesses are doing some deliveries, but actually that there’s enough demand from customers to make it worthwhile for SMEs to use delivery software. This is a remarkable change.”

At the same time, at CCV, we’ve seen increased demand from SMEs for our mobile payment solutions and smartphone terminals. The ability to collect contactless payment on the road is extremely valuable, especially for the HORECA industry. This technology allows cafes and restaurants to accept an order through any channel, drop it off on the customer’s doorstep, and take payment while keeping distance.

Alongside the challenges of delivery team management and accepting payment on the move, SME owners also need to think about getting proof-of-delivery, communicating with delivery recipients, and tracking where their drivers are. This doesn’t always come naturally if a business owner has never done it before, which is why working with software and hardware partners can make things much easier.

Success Stories: SMEs Are Integrating Deliveries Permanently

With every challenge, however, comes opportunity. And while a lot of small businesses suffered early issues with their new delivery operations – or struggled to scale up an existing delivery system to levels they’ve never managed before – many are now thriving with this new focus.

“One of the remarkable things about this year is how well businesses have managed to take the transition to delivery in their stride,” Jack says.

“While after lockdown many returned to normal, from what we’ve seen, many more have permanently changed the way they sell to customers. For some, delivery has been started up from scratch, while others have just given it a much more central role than it had before. Either way, it has brought in enough revenue for them to make it worthwhile for the long term.”

Through his own conversations with business owners and his customer service team’s interaction with customers, Jack has heard plenty of inspiring success stories. For example, one independent craft brewery switched their business model overnight from wholesale to direct-to-consumer (D2C), and brought in same-day delivery to offer something new to customers.

“This brewery’s eCommerce store only made up 5% of their customer pre-lockdown, because they focused on bars and restaurants. But by going all-in on delivery, they managed to push D2C orders up to 80% of their sales. By moving quickly, they maintained brewing capacity at 100% and kept all their staff.”

Jack also heard from the owners of a bakery, who had an abundance of homemade cookie dough, but no customers through their doors. In a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, they offered it up for sale on Instagram, and saw a huge response. Quickly, they set up a webshop online and began delivering the dough to homes in the local area.

And even for companies who were already in the delivery game, COVID-19 pushed them to adapt. For example, one bicycle courier in the Netherlands saw an immediate 20-25% boost in demand, which put a lot of pressure on their processes. But they managed to scale to more than 400 deliveries per day.

“One of my favourite stories is a UK-based juice bar, which was forced to diversify due to the lockdown,” Jack says. “Rather than selling juice in their cafe, they pivoted their business to send out boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables to their customers.” According to Jack, this juice bar also let customers nominate local residents who were in need, in order for them to receive a free box of healthy produce.

“Deliveries went from zero pre-lockdown to more than 400 per week,” Jack says. “As a result, their existing staff became delivery drivers, while the business owner organised delivery routes to help them get around to different customers in the area efficiently. They told us that they intend to keep deliveries going to help the local community, even after things get back to normal.”

According to Jack, this is just the tip of the iceberg. And, like Jack’s company Circuit, CCV is also ready to help Europe’s SMEs adapt to the new reality of commerce and customer service. Our webshop solution will help you sell products and take payment online, and our mobile payment terminals give you the flexibility to take contactless payment anywhere you need.

Overcoming the Challenges of Delivery

Lockdown forced lots of businesses to wake up to the opportunities that delivery offers. And, even now, launching a delivery service can be a great idea for any small business – despite the challenges it poses. As Jack has seen from the small businesses he works with, lots of them are doing better than before by going direct-to-consumer – and they’re planning to continue their new delivery model into the future.

Thank you to Jack for taking the time to speak with us about small business delivery. You can learn more about Circuit on their website.

Note: If you’re looking to add a webshop to your business model, start accepting online payments, or try out a new mobile contactless terminal, contact CCV today. We work with SMEs in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany – and our team can help you get set up quickly and easily.