E-commerce shipping and innovation: a step towards the future
According to Fevad, in 2019 E-commerce represented only 9.8% of retail trade, compared to 13.4% in 2020. The Covid crisis has certainly reinforced our use of online sales websites and their shipping services. In the lack of a safe way to go to the shop, delivery is the preferred way to collect goods. And if certain sectors such as the home delivery restaurant sector have still been impacted by the crisis. With Deliveroo announcing that it has not returned to normal since the beginning of the crisis. We must now come to terms with the fact that shipping is and will remain at the heart of the sales system of most businesses from now on.
But the crisis has only accelerated a movement that was already well underway. For several years now, companies have been trying to get closer to a consumer. Who is increasingly adept at using digital tools and no longer necessarily goes to the shop to make purchases. The sales experience has therefore had to be adapted to these new expectations. The concept of shipping is not new. But over the last few years, we have seen a maturation of the proposed experience on several levels. Here is an overview of the different innovations that allow companies to improve the customer experience. And save money through five key issues in the delivery of goods.
The shipping experience for the final consumer is as important as the purchase stage. Providing a seamless experience tailored to the needs of the customer is now essential. And companies are increasingly offering solutions to customize offers according to customers’ expectations and availability.
Cora, for example, launched a robotic container concept this year, allowing company employees to pick up their groceries at their workplace. Similarly, Walmart is testing a similar offer in Arkansas alongside HomeValet. Offering its customers the possibility of delivering frozen or fresh products in boxes designed for this purpose. The products are accessible 24/7. These contactless initiatives offer a hybrid alternative between online and in-store shopping.
Flexibility in delivery methods also involves the time of delivery, which is often a source of concern for many consumers. The famous delivery between 8am and 6pm. Or the notice of passage forcing the customer to go to the Post Office to collect his parcel. Even though it was ordered at home is pushing companies to innovate on the type of times offered.
In the US, several offers are also being tested by Walmart and Amazon to deliver directly to the customer’s home. InHome Delivery, which requires the installation of a smart lock. Allows Walmart to access a person’s home (and fridge) without the need for them to be present. To reassure its customers, Walmart offers to broadcast all of its deliveries live on a dedicated app. And guarantees “employees with familiar faces”. Despite the intrusiveness of such an offer, one can imagine its usefulness for an elderly person who has difficulty getting around. Amazon, on the other hand, offers delivered directly to the garage of private individuals with its Key for Garage service. A slightly less intrusive proposal that guarantees the security of products inside the home.
Increasing the speed of care
Who hasn’t ordered on Aliexpress and waited patiently for more than a month to receive their order? Today, the waiting time for the reception of a product has become a strategic selling point. This is what Alibaba has understood by making several resolutions this year through its logistics subsidiary Cainiao to allow delivery in 24 hours for China and 72 hours for the world. The company has decided to multiply by 4 the number of flights dedicated to the delivery of products but also to double the surface of its international warehouses. The President of Cainiao also explained that logistics should no longer be seen as an “afterthought” as it is now an integral part of digital infrastructures.
All over the world, initiatives have flourished to deliver in record time, initially in-store with Click and Collect in 1 hour at Marionnaud, for example, but now also at the customer’s home. Amazon Prime is obviously in the lead, allowing its premium subscription to guarantee record delivery times for thousands of products in the Amazon catalogue.
In the US, Instacart also appears to dominate the fast delivery market with key partnerships with companies such as Sephora and Walgreens to guarantee same-day delivery.
On the sidelines, initiatives such as 3D printing of products directly in the warehouse, or the use of connected objects such as smart gloves to identify packages more quickly, are all logistical innovations that save time later on.
To optimize costs, companies are developing large-scale innovations using advanced technologies such as drones. Still, in the testing phase in the US with companies like Amazon and UPS, this technology is already much more advanced in China. Especially since the Covid crisis. Although it remains in the testing phase in specific regions. The complexity of such an implementation comes from the difficulty of legislating around these devices which must navigate freely in the skies of cities.
Similarly, last-mile delivery is becoming a major issue to optimize costs and many companies are testing automated delivery robots to address this. Since September 2020, Alibaba has been testing Xiaomanlv, a delivery robot capable of delivering up to 500 parcels per day.
The Korean start-up Woowa Brothers also offers this type of service, even going directly to customers’ buildings. The service is being tested in Seoul and is expected to be operational by the end of 2021.
Taking the concept of self-delivery a step further, Meituan, a goods delivery company in China that specializes in restaurants. But has diversified into other consumer products and services. Launched MAI shop in Beijing last October. Customers can order products on Meituan via the WeChat application. The product, usually delivered by an autonomous vehicle, is brought to an automatic kiosk allowing the customer to collect the order quickly and easily. In a test during the bank holidays, the average waiting time for order was 17 minutes and 95% of deliveries were made by autonomous vehicles without drivers.
Delivery reliability is also a key issue. Many orders are lost or stolen in transit, and the market is therefore being structured around new services to ensure better deliverability of orders. The French company LivingPackets, which made a big splash at CES 2021, is offering “intelligent packages”. That can be tracked in real-time and guarantee the integrity of the package. With sensors that measure humidity, temperature, and shocks. It can be used up to 1,000 times before being repackaged. And the end customer is expected to return the box to partner companies or reuse it in return for rewards.
Another service that guarantees the reliability of deliveries is Shippeo, which provides visibility of the entire delivery fleet and predictive delivery information in real-time to respond more quickly to delivery contingencies and improve efficiency.
Finally, Pickme offers a delivery service to relay neighbors who are paid for their availability. This is a way of guaranteeing the safe arrival of your parcel through known contacts.
A final issue that is increasingly present now is the eco-responsibility of delivery. How do you maintain a positive carbon footprint, or at least a neutral one, when you ship thousands of parcels every day?
For the major retail companies and e-commerce giants, this means above all switching to electric vehicles. And automating the vehicles at the same time (killing two birds with one stone).
At the end of 2020, Amazon unveiled its first electric delivery vehicle equipped with a 360-degree camera (worrying some about the company’s surveillance capacity) and the Alexa voice assistant. Walmart, for its part, is developing a fleet of autonomous driverless trucks with the company Gatik. The first tests are taking place in Louisiana.
Another trend, so-called “collaborative” delivery, is also making headway. The concept is simple: employ individuals to deliver objects from one place to another while on the move. In France, several startups have emerged around this idea, such as Shopopop, which has formed a partnership with Casino Supermarkets and Géant Casino to test the concept.
Focusing on the end customer
Imagining the delivery of tomorrow means guaranteeing maximum choice for the end customer while reducing costs. It also means thinking in terms of environmental impact and reliability. Both of which are essential to reassure customers and avoid unnecessary losses. Even as a simple e-commerce site, it is essential to always think about the customer experience after the sale and understand their frustrations to evolve. There are several initiatives today that are not just for the giants like Amazon that can help guide you towards better performance and customer satisfaction.
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