Ask the Experts: Could Volvo’s Roam Concept Revolutionise Home Delivery?

6 min read01 April 2014

In late February the internet was awash with speculation around Volvo’s sneak preview of their pioneering home delivery concept Roam. Rajapack gathers some expert opinions on whether Roam could really revolutionise the way we receive our online shopping.  

It’s an all too familiar sight for many of us, coming home to stumble over that cardboard slip containing the words “Sorry we missed you”. As well as being an awkward inconvenience, it’s also a problem that creates a huge financial burden on the courier businesses, estimated to have cost the industry £820 million over the last year alone. Volvo believes its latest Roam concept, which was officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress this year, could be the answer to all of these troubles.

The Technology

Volvo's Roam

Roam works by utilising Volvo’s existing ‘On Call’ technology, transforming a customer’s car into a parcel drop off point and by doing so removing any need to alter your schedule around expected deliveries. Couriers are provided with a digital key that allows access to the car’s GPS co-ordinates, colour, registration plate and grants one time entry to the car, allowing the courier to drop off the goods. Once deposited, the car then re-locks and sends an acknowledgment message to the customer, notifying them their parcels have been delivered.

Volvo estimates that over the last year 60% of us had problems with our online deliveries. If we combine this with eMarketer’s latest estimates that business to customer ecommerce transactions are expected to grow at an average rate of 17% over the next year, we can certainly see where Volvo thinks the technology stakes a claim.

Roam has already been trialled with considerable success in partnership with selected retailers and couriers across parts of Sweden. However, with this comes obvious speculation around the clear security risks and whether this system would work on a broader international scale.

The Competition

As we have seen over the last year however, Volvo isn’t the only company looking to provide innovative and viable alternatives to transform home delivery. Only a few months ago we saw Amazon announce its Prime Air project, aimed at providing a bold thirty-minute delivery time from the moment of purchase. Coupled with Google’s launch of Shopping Express and Ebay’s acquisition of Shutl, many are speculating which of these may be the forerunner in the home delivery race.



We caught up with Professor Richard Wilding OBE, a specialist in Supply Chain Strategy to hear his thoughts on whether Roam could really transform the world of B2C logistics.

Professor Richard Wilding OBE – Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University School of Management

Q. What do you foresee as the major obstacles Roam could face if it was to be rolled out on a wider international scale?

A. The cost of moving small packages around is high, so you’d have to know exactly where the car is, although many cars can be tracked by GPS nowadays so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

There are a few other challenges: most people don’t leave valuable items in the car for security reasons. Chilled products will also be a problem, as the inside of cars can reach quite high temperatures – thinking about health and safety, there would have to be some kind of temperature control, which might also raise certain environmental issues. But the idea may be totally appropriate in a non-sunny climate or for more robust items.

We also have to consider how insurers will react to the idea and how they will attempt to insure such a system.

Other things to consider are unplanned trips and difficult locations – what if the vehicle moves suddenly or the delivery van has to navigate a complex car park? Both will cause logistical issues.


Q. To what extent do you believe Roam could be a solution for solving the issues caused by e-commerce growth and the current business to customer logistics methods available?

A. Here’s the test I always apply to these things: is it easy for the consumer? In this case, yes. Is it fun? Well – it’s novel. Will the consumer trust it? Maybe.


Q. Do you think the Roam concept is something we’re likely to see take off on a larger scale in the near future?

A. They’re basically cross-selling into another area, using cars to get into delivery. It’s a nice idea; but am I going to buy a Volvo because of it? If it works, it’s likely that other car companies will do it as well.


Q. Are there any other recent innovations you believe may be more effective in this field?

A. Central locations to pick up items seem to work quite well. You could also have a drive through system, almost like at McDonalds, where you can drive to a collection window on your way home.


We also spoke to our senior buyer to get some thoughts from Rajapack on what Roam could do to revolutionise home deliveries.

Hector Au – Rajapack Senior Buyer

Q. Can you see Volvo’s proposed Roam system being implemented on a larger and international scale in the near future?

A. It could possibly take off, but different countries may have very different ideas in terms of whether this was an acceptable means of delivery.  There may be certain high crime areas that you would not want your orders delivered to, for example.

It would also depend on whether Volvo would be willing to license this technology to other manufacturers, as Volvo probably doesn’t have a big enough market in the UK to make it worthwhile for couriers to get involved in.


Q. To what extent do you believe Roam could be a solution for the issues caused by e-commerce growth, and the current business to customer logistics methods available?

A. It’s a good idea to provide an alternative delivery solution for customers who may or may not be able to sign for a parcel. If you choose to deliver your parcel to your place of work, you may get some post rooms refusing to sign for personal items. As people’s lives become more diverse, delivery options need to change with the times. Although, this may not be a long term solution, it does show that companies are thinking of ways to overcome this problem.


Q. What do you foresee as the major obstacles Roam could face if it was to be rolled out on a wider international scale?

A. The security aspect is definitely a major concern and could also limit Roam’s suitability to only low value items. Boot space is also another problem for larger orders; I could see a form of ‘click and collect’ service working better in this instance.


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