Once a relatively unknown strategy, networks of independently contracted delivery drivers — or what might be referred to as “the Uber model” — have proliferated throughout the transportation industry in recent years.
Amazon has Flex. Target has Shipt. And platforms like DoorDash, Gopuff and Bringg all leverage fleets of drivers that don’t actually work for them.
But by and large, independent contractors — or gig workers — have a few gripes with the model, including the speed at which they are paid. Uber drivers, for example, are by default paid weekly rather than at the end of each trip unless they opt into the platform’s quicker Instant Pay service, which is unavailable to most new drivers.
“What we’ve seen is that faster payments are a really valuable idea and service that drivers are really looking for,” Atif Siddiqi, founder and CEO of instant payments platform Branch, told FreightWaves. “It’s almost become an expectation now, especially in the independent contractor space.”
On Wednesday, big and bulky last-mile delivery firm Bungii partnered with Branch to streamline payments for its growing fleet of gig drivers, a move Mark Vanderweide, Bungii’s vice president of product, believes will keep drivers happy and allow the firm to save money and scale up.
“Previously, we had a weekly [payment] option through direct deposit into accounts, and the two biggest problems were that the speed wasn’t there and we were paying internal fees on our side for that payment every single time,” Vanderweide told FreightWaves. “So as we scale … moving from that to free, it was a huge thing for us internally.”
Drivers who sign up with Bungii will now onboard with Branch and the Branch Wallet. The platform’s portal for receiving payments is now embedded within Bungii’s driver app, which allows drivers to view their earnings.
But the best part for drivers? They don’t even need to lift a finger to get their money.
“The magic all happens on the back end and [the drivers] actually don’t do anything to get paid,” Vanderweide explained. “As soon as they complete a delivery, that tells our back end the delivery is done. All of the accounting happens there. Then we send files on the back end to Branch and Branch disperses the payment.”
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Because Bungii delivers big and bulky items like furniture and appliances that could be liable for damages, the firm has opted not to offer instantaneous payments despite Branch having that capability. But drivers can be paid as soon as the day of, with the option for twice weekly payments on Tuesday and Friday.
“These embedded experiences are really valuable for consumers. It just reduces friction,” said Siddiqi. ”At the end of the day, if drivers want a full banking experience where they can see a little bit more detail, they can go to the Branch app.”
That enhanced experience, Vanderweide and Siddiqi say, can go a long way toward attracting and retaining talent.
According to Vanderweide, Bungii drivers have said they want two things when it comes to payments: speed and convenience. Adding both makes the firm stand out among the sea of other gig work opportunities, which Bungii hopes will help it grow from a few thousand drivers to over 10,000 in “a couple years.”
“Both from an onboarding efficiency and from an attracting drivers standpoint, it’s really important for us,” Vanderweide said.
Now any time a new driver joins the network, Bungii doesn’t need to worry about setting up their payments. And once a driver is registered, quicker payouts make it more likely they’ll stick around, which Vanderweide said has been more challenging for Bungii than attracting them in the first place.
“The cost of acquiring talent is only going up as it gets more competitive,” Siddiqi added, “and so anything you do to keep people longer in the system is a huge advantage.”
As Bungii looks to expand beyond its current service area of 50 major metros across 500 U.S. cities, that ability to keep drivers on the books could go a long way.