A Design and Research Journey...

Amazon’s Last Mile team spent two and a half weeks in Europe researching Amazon’s global package delivery processes. We talked with Justin Schafer, Sr. UX designer who gave us details about the trip.

When was the last time you received an Amazon package delivery from someone on a scooter? What about someone on a bike? This isn’t a common sight for Amazon customers in the United States, but Amazon delivers packages across the globe; sometimes taking our Transporters onto roads where delivery vans simply cannot drive.

We sat down with Justin Schafer (Sr. UX designer), who traveled across Europe with several other designers and researchers from our Last Mile team to understand how "Micromobility" (ie - walker, biker, scooter, etc.) delivery works. The app our Delivery Associates use is primarily designed around the typical use case of a delivery driver in a van; but we journied to Europe to see the unique challenges and differences other deliveries methods encounter.

The journey...

The team traveled across several cities in Europe; visiting local facilities in Duessdorf, Essen, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, and London; observing each city’s local package organization and delivery process. They strategized routes with the warehouse Delivery Associates, connected with translators, and their lean group of designers and translators packed their days full of tag-along adventures; following and observing multiple delivery people (drivers, bikers, scooters, and walkers). Justin shared that their primary intention was to ensure they “didn’t slow anyone down” because the delivery teams were so busy.

The translation complication...

The team provided a list of questions to the translators they connected with; asking them to discuss the list with the Delivery Associates and relay back responses in real time. They realized, however, that they were missing out on curious opportunities to learn more about each situation. “We started training our translators how to be researchers” Justin remarked. They helped the translators understand the importance of asking their own questions and having more thoughtful follow-ups so they could grab rich data about the Delivery Associate’s experiences. He explained that they were able to gain so much more from the experience when they shared their intentions of the trip with the translators and gave them the freedom to ask the drivers their own questions. This allowed the conversation to flow more naturally, and they were able to gather useful and specific information about each person’s experience with the current state of the delivery app. 

Alternative Delivery Vehicle in Europe

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Quite a few calories burned...

In one instance, about 2 weeks into the trip, the team was following Delivery Associates on scooters. Justin explained that drivers on scooters would start out at exchange points under the city in underground parking lots. Big trucks would rumble in with packages, the team would work together to load up each scooter bike with their respective packages, and each scooter would split off to speedily deliver the packages. One Delivery Associate they observed that day was working through package deliveries on a scooter. He parked in the middle of all his delivery areas, hopped off his scooter, and started delivering all his packages on foot.

Justin and the team followed right behind him; walking briskly to observe his use of the delivery app, his processes; scribbling down notes and taking care to avoid tripping on the precariously beautiful cobblestone streets. Later that evening, the team was eating dinner together and reminiscing about the day. One researcher pulled out a step counter and exclaimed that they’d all already walked over 50 miles throughout their trip - and they weren’t done yet!!

What's Next?

The team recently came back from their travels and are currently analyzing all the data they collected from their time in Europe. They’re categorizing the data to start the next phase of their project - looking for ways to optimize the app's “quality and speed outputs for our Delivery Associates”; to optimize an app that all delivery associates can use, no matter the mode of transportation. Another plan in the works? Provide Delivery Associates with useful information, like “letting them know a road they're on is commercially restricted, there’s a road closure or a bridge up ahead, or even severe weather expected in the area”. We can't wait to see the new designs and processes the last mile team implements to create safer and efficient processes for Amazon associates people and those we obsess over — our customers.

As for Justin, he’s excited that his love for design framework efficiency aligns with the work he’s working on in Last Mile. “I love process and frameworks as a designer.” The ability to work on the tool the drivers use; making it more efficient, safe, and something they love to use is “that perfect blend of process meets human”. He loves being part of a mission that helps so many people in so many unique ways; describing with a gleeful grin on his face: “I don’t think I’ll be bored ever”.