Most of the major trends in ecommerce for 2018 narrow to a single point: creating an excellent customer experience. For the logistics side of ecommerce, that means ensuring that both deliveries and returns are handled promptly and with no pain or frustration for the customer. It also means expanding your horizons and skillsets and working in collaboration with other departments to gain customers’ trust, develop real relationships with them, and generally make their lives easier.
The other big theme for 2018 is technology — using it to optimize all processes for a dual win: getting packages into customers’ hands faster, and reducing costs by cutting inefficiencies.
Here, then, are three of the major trends in ecommerce logistics for 2018:
Omnichannel (+ the Last Mile)
Omnichannel applies to both ends of the ecommerce process: customer connection and sales, and fulfillment and shipping. In terms of the latter, omnichannel is going to be the way to go to solve the problem of the last mile. Customers now expect cheap or free 2-day delivery or faster, and e-retailers who can’t step up to the plate will see sales drop. Ship-to-store, in-store pickup, Amazon-style delivery lockers, and alternative carriers such as the USPS (which is already being utilized by Amazon) and Uber-type carriers are all possibilities to simultaneously increase your margins and retain happy customers. The key is to think innovatively and not discount any option before you’ve fully explored it and run the numbers.
IoT and Connectivity
The IoT is gaining traction in many fields, and packaging and shipping is one realm where it can have a major positive impact. Ecommerce retailers who deploy IoT to track shipments with RFID, GPS, and other connected sensors will be a step ahead in making sure customers get their packages on time — and will also be able to make better decisions about routing, staffing, and warehousing. Incorporate those sensors with mobile apps, and you have access to a wealth of data from which to draw insights such as where there are inefficiencies along the supply chain, from warehouse to delivery point.
Drones and Robots
Deutsche Post, the German postal service, is trialing a Postbot, which can carry up to 150 kg and follows along behind the mail carrier it’s assigned to. Luxury brand Hermes is testing an intelligent robot that can deliver to the right house without human assistance, using cellphone networks for navigation and control. Amazon is testing delivery drones in the UK. Beyond delivery, robots are making a real impact on automation in warehouses, a trend that by the end of 2018 might reach a tipping point. For ecommerce businesses with high labor costs, warehouse robots offer the opportunity to slash a major budget item, once the initial investment has been recouped. Whether for fulfillment or delivery, forward-looking ecommerce shippers will be leaping into the future of technology in 2018.