Shipping goes green as Shiply expands across Europe

Shiply calls itself an eBay for haulage companies. Essentially, it’s a marketplace where users list items they want to move and haulage companies with spare capacity offer quotes. Shiply just launched in Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France. The company already had a presence in Germany as well as in its home base of the UK. In contrast to another UK delivery company we covered lately, Shutl, Shiply specializes in longer journeys within and between European countries. So if you have, for example, a piano you want to move from Manchester to Amsterdam it’s a good bet. 15% of shipments on Shiply already cross national borders.

Shiply offers two main advantages: price and CO2 reductions. Participating haulage companies transport Shiply deliveries in trucks that are already scheduled to travel on the given route. So they can afford to offer a reduction of up to 75% on the shipping cost of each new item. Haulage companies pay a transaction-based fee, which varies between 3.9% and 9.9% depending on the size of the quote. Shiply is also an eBay delivery partner in the UK.

25% of the haulage trucks on British roads run empty because they are on return trips. According to Shiply, this results in an additional 36 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, an enormous 7.2% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Shiply claims to have already saved over 10 million road miles. In recognition of the environmental contribution of the business, Shiply won 100,000 euros in the Dutch Postcode Lottery’s Green Challenge competition last year. Its young founder, Robert Matthams, also received the Shell LiveWIRE and BT Young entrepreneur of the year awards in 2010.

While it was always possible to move goods from the UK to Europe with Shiply, only UK and German haulage companies participated in the marketplace. The new launches mean that local Dutch, Spanish, French and Italian companies can also offer quotes in their native territories, and web sites in the local language have also gone live. 10% of Shiply’s business already comes from its German site which launched in October 2009. Matthams told me that local knowledge has proved to be very important. Germans, for example, are not fond of giving their credit card details online and don’t use PayPal very much. So the payment options on the German web site had to be updated accordingly.

Shiply’s main competitor is the US-based  UShip, which in late 2009 launched localised versions in Canada, UK, EU, and Australia followed by Germany in 2010. UShip will support Dutch and French versions later this year. UShip claims to be an order of magnitude bigger than any of its competitors and about 10% of the company’s business is outside the US.

When I spoke to Matthams in September of last year, he told me that the company broke even in its first six months of trading, was experiencing growth of over 100% per month and was on course to surpass a £500,000 turnover in 2010. He’s declined to give me precise updates on those figures but did say that Shiply’s performance has already exceeded the projections. According to the web site, Shiply has 160,000 registered users, 16,500 registered haulage companies and receives 1,200 quote requests per day. Shiply was founded in Manchester in June 2008 and is self-funded.

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[image via Flickr/Ryan Holst]