We investigated how touting (i.e., actively approaching individual customers) can be effectively used to increase the efficiency of route planning to deliver services. Rather than just waiting for orders to come in, we propose to additionally reach out to targeted customers to effectively shape demand to some extent - especially useful when long distances need to be travelled.
We collaborated with a waste collection company in the UK, and found that strategically approaching certain customers for early collection can significantly reduce the overall distances travelled. The idea could be extended to other domains, especially in a B2B context where most of the potential customers are known.
The paper (joint with Merve Keskin, Juergen Branke, and Vladimir Deineko) is forthcoming in the European Journal of Operational Research and can be found here