As manager of the smart lab, a new think tank by smart, Daniel Deparis and his team are responsible for innovative car-based services like smart “ready to drop”. This delivery innovation in partnership with DHL allows users to receive online orders directly in the trunk of their smart.
Mr. Deparis, the new smart “ready to drop“ service turns the car into a package drop: Car owners can have online orders delivered to their car’s trunk overnight, without needing to be around for the drop-off. What’s the idea behind this pioneering service?
Daniel Deparis: Every one of us is looking for ways to make life in the city more pleasant and easy. That’s what unites us all. I, for example, really don’t feel like spending an hour on a Saturday going to the post office to pick up a package. So, each and every day, we at smart work on making life better for urbanites. At the smart lab, our new think tank, we consider the whole potential of the car, beyond driving. As a result, we develop services like smart “ready to drop”, which saves me the trip to the post office, giving me valuable extra time to enjoy a coffee or take my kids to the playground – that’s what you call added value. We generated a process of the successive pilot and launch phases.
The average car spends 23 hours every day just sitting in a parking space. The idea to make the most of this downtime seems so obvious and vital that we really need to ask ourselves: Why did this take so long?
Daniel Deparis: We live in a very exciting period where two major things come together: In future, our customers will expect their car to be more than a vehicle or a parked asset. Convenience is a clear trend – we’re getting more and more annoyed by all those little things we need to deal with. So, we decided to start with an everyday issue that anyone knows who’s ever received a package. At the same time, we now have access to technologies that help us tackle these use cases and offer convenience services: Our smart Connectivity Box, a digital windshield transmitter used by the DHL delivery guy to open your smart, has been tried and tested a million times as part of car2go carsharing. So, there’s no need for technological experiments or reinventing the wheel.
Over the past five years, cars have undergone more fundamental change than in the previous 125 years. What’s your approach to rethinking the functions of a car?
Daniel Deparis: We simply ask ourselves: Which additional use can a parked car offer its owner? It’s our goal to identify these opportunities as fast as possible and then bring them all together in a prototype. By rethinking and improving everyday processes, we create added value for the customer. We try to test and implement these services as quickly as possible. But one factor shouldn’t be underestimated: We’re talking about a complete evolution of our culture here – people who are mobile and work autonomously also have brand new needs. Here, a glance at the digital realm confirms: It’s all about speed.
“Solutions that simplify our lives“
At smart, “forward thinking” is a core brand value. Now, with the smart lab, the brand has started a dedicated department for innovative additional services that make the car even more useful. Are you the start-up among all the other departments?
Daniel Deparis: Yes, we are, starting with the actual structure of the smart lab. In our team, it’s all about roles and less about hierarchies, making us a very agile department. We have lots of young people on board who are extremely autonomous workers and thinkers. This allows them to fully focus on what really matters: offering customers solutions that truly simplify their lives. Rather than being your average boss, I tend to have more of a coaching role.
Do you rely on classic market research approaches to discover the needs and trends used as a starting point for services like smart “ready to drop” or, as previously featured on smart magazine, smart “ready to park +”?
Daniel Deparis: Quite a few different things come into play here. While I didn’t commission a study saying that a service like smart “ready to drop” is the ultimate solution, the previously mentioned convenience trend is hard to miss. At the same time, the concept of last-mile delivery is not only a big topic for the vehicle and logistics industries, but also occupies urban planners, administrators, and environmentalists. So, when we also ask our customers about their wishes, we’re bound to come across a good idea sooner or later. Once this idea has been tested by a small, but significant group, we can be sure that, yes, it has merit.
So, how and when can customers try your new smart “ready to drop” service?
Daniel Deparis: We just started a beta phase in Stuttgart, with Cologne to follow in November. Then we’ll see how people like the service and which other services we will offer in future. Our long-term goal is to create a creative service bundle.
What kind of results do you expect from this beta phase?
Daniel Deparis: My main aim is to ensure that the customers we’ve acquired are happy with the service. To be more specific, we want to learn as much as possible from the entire customer journey, especially at those points where the customer has actual contact with the service. In the end, we want to arrive at a point where we can say, ‘this needs to be changed here; this needs to be changed over there.’ The ultimate result would not just be the highest possible customer satisfaction, but also some very detailed feedback. So, during this beta phase, our team will pay special attention to what the customers are saying.
The Connectivity Box could also be used for other conceivable smart services. Why did you start with smart “ready to drop”?
Daniel Deparis: With DHL, we were lucky to get the right partner on board from day one and we also knew that our team could design and realize this service quickly and well. Now, we need to move on and tackle other key needs our customers have – that’s our main focus. We already have plenty of ideas for future services we’re now developing into prototypes ready for launch.